Blanding Library Welcomes New Director
Whitney Pape, new director at the Blanding Library, brings a wide variety of library experience to her new position. She has worked in college and university libraries, at a private library (Newport’s Redwood Library), and at the Pawtucket Public Library. Whitney, who lives in Cranston, is a native of Watertown in Litchfield County, Connecticut. She says that Rehoboth reminds her of her childhood in Watertown, where she lived on Guernseytown Road.
A graduate of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Whitney enjoyed spending time as an undergraduate studying abroad in Rouen, France. She received her master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Texas at Austin, where she studied preservation management.
Since then Whitney has been a special collections and preservation librarian at Oberlin College in Ohio, a lecturer at the URI Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, a special collections librarian at the Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport, a project archivist at Brown University Library, a reference and instruction librarian at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, and a community outreach librarian at the Pawtucket Public Library.
“I’m glad that the opportunity and the timing for the Blanding position worked out for me,” she said. “I came away from my interview with a good feeling about the place and the people and what the library is able to do with its resources.”
Whitney follows Laura Bennett as director of the Blanding. Laura recently retired after ably serving the Blanding for a couple of decades. Under Laura’s direction, the library came into the digital age with all the changes that entails. The Blanding is a state-certified public library and a member of the SAILS library system in Southeastern Massachusetts. Recent years also saw the celebration of Goff Hall’s 100th anniversary in 2015 and a new building renovation that added handicapped accessible bathrooms and some other much-needed space.
Speaking about the role of today’s library in an age of digital devices, Whitney commented, “The library here has a sense of community that you can’t get from a tablet. People still come not just to check out books and other items, but to also read the paper and connect with other people at the library. It provides a social and mutual caring society. Humans need to gather, need place to connect with people.”
She said that despite all the new technology today, e-book sales have leveled off. “However convenient, reading alone on a digital device does not take place of a library. Surveys have shown that there has been no decrease in patrons or circulation at most libraries,” she said. Also, it should be noted that library patrons can use their library cards to download e-books, among many other services available through SAILS.
The Blanding’s parent organization is the Rehoboth Antiquarian Society, but funding for running the library comes from the town, which is a requirement for a public library to be fully certified, along with some additional funding from the state. The RAS also operates the Carpenter Museum in town.
The Friends of the Blanding Library, which is separate from the RAS, is the volunteer organization that provides additional support to the library by fund-raising for special programs and items that aren’t in the library’s budget. The library’s biggest fund-raiser of the year is the annual used book sale coming up the weekend of Sept. 15-17. See the Blanding Library column in this issue of The Reporter for more details on the book sale.
Upcoming news at the Blanding includes the six extra hours per week the library will be open, thanks to increased funding from the town. The library will now open at 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Whitney said she is looking forward to working with Carpenter Museum director Elyssa Tardif too, possibly collaborating on future programs.
One big project coming up is moving the contents of the Trim Room from upstairs at the library to the museum, which will free up some more library space at Goff Hall. This extensive collection of books and papers on Rehoboth genealogy was compiled some years ago by the late Robert S. Trim and attracts genealogy researchers from all over the country.
Whitney said she is enjoying her new position and has already received “tons of support from the staff, the Friends of the Library, and the RAS Board of Trustees”. We welcome Whitney to Rehoboth and encourage you to stop by and say Hello next time you come to the library.