Category Archives: staff interview

Staff interview: Sandy Abbott

Today’s staff interviewee is Sandy Abbott, the Adult Programming librarian here at Ellsworth Public Library.

What is you favorite book, author and genre?

The book I have not stopped talking about since I read it, is Learning to Swim by Sarah Henry.  While some may consider this a thriller, I enjoyed the elements of intrigue, and relationships.  I was hooked from the first page, and cannot wait for the sequel.  It was nominated for Barry Award for best first novel, Agatha Award for best first novel, and Mary Higgins Clark Award.  I would have to say this is my favorite to date!

I do enjoy a variety.  Sometimes my choice is a book about Maine people and places.  I have enjoyed traveling to many of the places I have read about.  If I am in a crafty mood, it might be the books about jewelry making, cooking or knitting which draw out my creative side.  I am always looking for fun things to do with my grandchildren.

While my time for pleasure reading is never enough, I enjoy cozy reads, mystery, chick lit and books which take place in Maine.

You are the Book Group coordinator at the Ellsworth Public Library. What is one of the most interesting aspects of the book club for you?

The book group was relatively newly established when I started at the library.  It has been very enjoyable to see the group develop into a core group of ‘regulars’ with others dropping in from time to time.  It is the wonderful individuals who provide the personality for our group. There is always a friendly exchange of opinions about the book of the month. Each person lends so much to the discussion, so we end up with a nice balanced overview of the book.  We have a lot of fun!

It is also fun to see what books everyone will recommend for the next year.  I take 3 suggestions from each person, and compile a list.  Everyone gets a copy and chooses their top 11 choices for the year.  In December, we have a special pot luck dinner, and each read a book of our choice, depending on the theme we might choose.  The book group really helps everyone to read books and topics which individuals might not choose on their own.

What is your favorite part about working at the library?

Interaction with our patrons, both our regulars and seasonal visitors, is what makes life interesting.  So many of them truly appreciate the library, it’s services, and the efforts of the staff to assist them.  We often hear how helpful and friendly we are compared to libraries in other states.  It is a joy to see their smiling faces come through the door.  I hope that I will always be as gracious and appreciative as so many of our patrons are!

I also enjoy working with the staff.  It is so nice to work with a small group where you get to know each other and work together to accomplish what needs to be done.  There is a much warmer atmosphere here than in a large corporation where you are just don’t get to know everyone.

Of course, it is always fun to pore over the new books as they reach the shelves!

What is one of the most memorable programs that you have been a part of?

There have been so many wonderful programs; some very informative, some wonderful authors, and some just for fun, like crafts and music!

I must say that one of the dearest to my heart was to have Buzz Caverly, former director of Baxter State Park, come with Phyllis Austin, who wrote Wilderness Partners.  The book detailed Buzz and his lifetime love and leadership of Baxter State Park.  I have done a lot of camping and backpacking in Baxter and have chatted with Buzz many times, as well as attended some of his presentations at the park.  He is a remarkable man, who truly loves the park and has done all in his power to preserve the wishes of the park’s donor, Governor Percival Baxter.  Jan, Buzz’s wife of over 50 years, shares his passion for the park. To have Buzz, Jan and Phyllis visit our library was a thrill.  Our patrons agreed, as we had a full house and sold all of the books we had!

What do you think libraries will be like in the future?

That is a difficult question to answer.  Life as we know it is in a constant state of change.  Technology continues to change how people access information.  On a personal level, I hope we will have physical books for a long time to come.  Yet, I also love what technology brings to our fingertips so easily.  I do have an e-reader, and I love to search the internet for all kinds of information.

I think we will always have libraries, because humans are a social group, needing interaction and a sense of community.  Libraries also give us a connection to the past and a vision for the future.  We will always need people, as in librarians, to help make those connections.

Thanks, Sandy!


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Staff interview: Mary McKillop

Today’s staff interview is with Mary McKillop, circulation librarian and the coordinator for the Ellsworth Public Library’s Caregiver’s group.  Caregiver’s is a support group that meets once a month for caregivers of older people.

What is the most rewarding part of coordinating the Caregiver’s group?

Working with the people in the group; and maybe finding out I have been able to help. I love the way this group has grown and how they help each other. The group helps each other with information, advice, and reassurance. Once a caregiver cried through the whole meeting—everyone listened and offered suggestions. By the end of the meeting, there were hugs all around.

What do you think is the most common reference question?

It’s hard to say, because we get so many different kinds of questions. Often people call and just want to know if we have a certain book or if we can get a copy of it somewhere (which we can through inter-library loan). Other questions can take a lot more time; we may search for information in our collection or online. Also, people from all over the country call looking for information about their ancestors from Maine—though sometimes it takes a while to search things out. Our Genealogy Room is great; we have lots of materials and The Ellsworth American on microfilm back to 1851.

Why is the library important to the community?

I think we are a great entertainment/information center. If you call or come by and ask us a question, we will do our best to get you an answer. It really bugs me if I can’t find what you want to know.

We are also a meeting place. The local chess club (that was meeting at the now-closed Mr. Paperback) is now meeting here on Thursday evenings. We also have numerous activities and programs for all age groups here at the library.

What do you think libraries will be like in the future?

I picture future libraries as becoming more of a central system for getting information or providing entertainment (I haven’t run out of movies yet 🙂 ). Libraries will be providing the equipment and facilities to find information and have librarians to help find the answers. The advent of e-books and so forth mean that people won’t always be coming here for books, rather they will come for other types of technologies or materials. I think some people come here to sit and read quietly, check out the papers, and maybe meet with other people.

What is you favorite book, author, and genre?

I like all kinds of things, fiction and non-fiction. So many good books pass by the circulation desk when you’re working here—I’ll see something I want to know more about and take the book home. I also read some of the newest best sellers. I often have two or three books going: one “picture” read (like a cookbook with lots of pictures), maybe one for information, and one for pleasure.

Patrons and the other librarians also recommend books to me. I’m in the middle of reading the three “Hunger Games” books, recommended to me by the youth department librarians—one more to go.

At one time, I wanted to read all of the books in the Caregivers’ Corner; I only got about halfway through them. Now I just try to keep up with the new “caregiving” books.

At home, I keep a list of books I want to remember and it is getting longer. I do sometimes reread something, almost always non-fiction—the book Stuff (about compulsive hoarding) was one I read a couple of times. Right now, I keep taking home Creating Moments of Joy for the Person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Every time I go through it, something else strikes me as a good idea for caregivers.

Thank you, Mary!

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Interview with Charlene Clemons (part 2)

Here is part two of my interview with Charlene Clemons, Assistant Director of the Ellsworth Public Library.  Charlene is our go-to person for any questions relating to genealogy, so I thought I would ask her to share her advice for beginning genealogists.  In case you missed part one of the interview, it can be found here.

Could you recommend a couple of good online resources for people who are interested in researching their family’s history?

Probably the best investment would be There are two levels of membership, one for just the United States and one that includes worldwide records. The thing to watch for is the type of record you are finding. More and more records on Ancestry are scans of original certificates and these are great resources. You want to use as many “primary source” documents as you can find. Be careful of using “family trees” or transcriptions of records that people have put on Ancestry or any other site. They are a good jumping off point, but you need to find primary sources for any information you see on a family tree.

Depending on your area of research, there are any number of sites designed to help you, some free and some subscription. “Family Tree” magazine (which we have at the library) offers lists of the best web sites about once a year. I would say go with what you can afford. Try out a pay site by signing up for the shortest time they offer, then you have a chance to unsubscribe if you are not finding the information you need.

What advice would you give to a beginner genealogist who may feel overwhelmed and not know where to start?

1.  Start simply. Do you want to do your own family tree? Start with yourself, write down everything you know, date and place of birth and marriage; places where you lived and went to school; parents’ names, date of birth, marriage and death; grandparents, etc. Make sure to prove every record with the appropriate birth, marriage or death certificate. Interview living family members and even long-time friends and neighbors of family members. Everyone has a different take on events and may just give you the clue you need.

2.  Is it just one family line you want to work on? Perhaps your maternal grandfather’s family? Start with that person and figure out what you know and what you need to know.

3.  Remember to record all your sources, their locations and when you found them. That way if there is any question that you or other researchers have later the source can be found.

4.  Visit a meeting of your local genealogical society, they will be glad to help you. Join an online genealogy discussion group. Read the genealogical how-to books. Talk to other folks researching in the library at the same time you are.

5.  Most of all, be open to what you find. Sometimes information appears in places and from people you would never expect. Make notes and find proof one way or the other.

What is unique about Ellsworth Public Library’s genealogy collection?

A few things. While many collections are created using a bibliography of what every genealogy collection should include this collection was created by a person who had some experience doing genealogy research in libraries and knew how frustrating it could be when a librarian wasn’t interested in helping you find what you needed in the collection or when the collection was spread all over the library either in open or closed stacks. (Especially closed stacks!) Because of that, the collection was set up as a sub-collection so that almost anyone walking in off the street could find their way around it. Often they need help getting started but once they are in the area, they usually find much more than they hoped for.

Another thing that makes the collection unique is the vast number of unpublished genealogies that folks have donated to us over the years. Some of these are large notebooks or spiral bound books they have had printed, but many others are just a few pages long, such as the three notebooks of “Hancock County Genealogical Society Papers”. Members who do research on someone’s family make a copy and add it to the notebooks. Very often the bits of information there will lead other researchers to new avenues in their own family genealogy. Probably 95% of the family names covered in the collection are listed in the database as a subject making it easy for folks to find a particular family.

Then there are the private collections we have been given either before or after the passing of a genealogist. Because of them we are able to have a vast array of titles that are either no longer available or prohibitively expensive. And those people or their families know the collections are being used and appreciated by other people with the same interest in genealogical research.

We also have the only complete collection of The Ellsworth American available anywhere. This is an invaluable resource for people researching the Ellsworth area between 1855 and the time of the Ellsworth Fire in 1933 when local records were destroyed.

One of the microfilm machines in the genealogy section of the library.

Of course, we shouldn’t forget the people who do their research here and how generous they are with other researchers, usually total strangers who soon become friends as they work together to dig out a piece of information on an ancestor. I have even seen people working in that corner
on something not genealogy related, offer advice to genealogists working there just because they overhear the conversation, and perhaps know a
person, cemetery or work where the needed information might be found.  There is something very special about that corner of the library.

Thank you, Charlene!

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Interview with Charlene Clemons (part 1)

Today’s interviewee is Charlene Clemons, the Assistant Director of the Ellsworth Public Library. 

What is your favorite book, author, and genre?

Book: “Christmas In Maine” by Robert P. Tristam Coffin. The story reminds me of Christmases on my grandparents’ farm in North Penobscot.  Rereading it each Christmas brings back many fond memories of a simpler time when families spent holidays together enjoying each others company, conversation, good home-grown, home-cooked food, family games and the beauty
of nature around them.

Author: I really don’t have one favorite author. There are several that I read: Jack Higgins, Wilbur Smith, Sharon Kaye Penman, Kate Flora, Mary Kay Andrews, Robert B. Parker, Kathryn R. Wall, Thomas Kinkade…all depending on the mood I am in. I’m always looking for new authors to read.

Genre: At the moment I seem to be reading more mysteries than anything else, perhaps because I don’t have a lot of time and they are usually quick reads. I also enjoy family/generational sagas, biographies and history–particularly if I can relate it to family members on whom I am doing genealogical research.

During your time here at the library, what has changed the most?

Everything has grown. We have more staff now, we have more books, we have added DVD’s, and now Blu-Rays to what was, 20 years ago, a small collection of video tapes. We have moved from LP records to a music CD collection. We do more programming for both children and adults.  Circulation has more than doubled. And of course, technology has exploded.  When I started we had an electric typewriter, and one computer the public could use to look for books in other libraries on MaineCat. The World-Wide-Web arrived here before it did in many other libraries in Maine and from there it has blossomed into what we see today.

A section of the VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray collection at EPL.

What has stayed the same?

The needs of the people who visit us, and not just for reading or listening materials. Very often we are the only people they see on a regular basis, in a sense we become their extended family. They tell us when new babies are born, when there is a new house, spouse, or pet in the family. And they come to share the loss of loved ones with us.

In your opinion, what is the most important service that a library can provide for its patrons?

The obvious answer is access to knowledge, however respect and courtesy are equally important in my opinion. You can provide all the information a patron needs, but if it is not done in a respectful manner and with courtesy, the patron does not have the same experience or leave with the same feelings towards the library.

Check back next week for part 2 of the interview.  Charlene will tell us about the Ellsworth Public Library’s genealogy collection and give advice to beginner genealogists!

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Interview with Charlene Churchill (part 2)

Part 1 of this interview can be found here.

And now, without further ado…here is the second part of the staff interview with Charlene Churchill.

What is one of your favorite library memories?

I think this talks to the sense of community thing. I was the director in the library I grew up in from 2001 part way through 2006 when I was getting my Master’s degree. The town has 800 year round residents and then a bunch of “summer people” that have seasonal homes there. And one day, I was sitting at my desk, which happened to be right across the room from where all the DVDs were and I heard three people talking. It started out they were talking about a particular movie that was set in India. I finally got from the conversation that all three of them had been to India at various times. From the conversation I realized that probably they didn’t know each other, even in this community of 800 residents and all three of them were year round residents. So I said “Do you three know each other?” And it was kind of like “no, no, no, we don’t” so I introduced them to each other. I explained where each person lived (what road they lived on) and all of a sudden they’re talking away like they’ve been friends for life. And it ended up that the three of them went back to India, together on a trip.

Really? Oh, that’s great.

Yeah, it was really great. So, it’s an example of building community and how great it is when people can find other people with common interests through the library. I think an important thing that we do is connect people.

How do you think libraries will change in the next few years to accommodate the popularity of e-books?

That’s really hard to know because things change so fast. It’s kind of a e-book today, gone tomorrow kind of thing [laughs]. Some of the people who are writing and speaking about the library world of the future feel strongly that e-books are a stepping stone to something else, whatever that may end up being. So, I think libraries need to have e-books in their collection.

I think that being part of a statewide group is a good way to be involved in that resource without dumping all of our eggs into that basket. We’re still buying books on CD, we’re still buying print books. We have all those different formats available to people. I think we need to work on trying to make sure that everybody that uses the library knows we have e-books available. This can be a challenge because we’re not used to marketing ourselves, I think. But, that’s important.

For our budget year that we have coming up I actually took some of our book money and our audio/visual money and made a new line item that says “electronic resources” so we’d be using that to purchase e-books, and I’m not sure yet whether we’re going to do that on our own, or if we’re going to do it as part of the statewide group. I think that there are pluses and minuses to both things. I think one of the challenges with the statewide group is with popular things people have to wait quite a long time because there’s only a certain number of copies available and 15 copies of The Hunger Games, for instance, doesn’t go very far when the movie is coming out!

Right, and then you have to wait. You’re, like, 8th on the list, or something.

Right. And some people are patient and some people aren’t. I think libraries have to be open to new things, whatever that is. And I think that along with having e-books available are things like being able to help people with their e-reader, helping them understand how it works and how to download things, that’s a great service that we can offer to people.

We could also explore more about electronic resources in terms of programming that is oriented around things that are only available electronically. It’s really hard to know and it’s hard to keep up with because things are moving so quickly. We’ll see. But, I think we have to keep up with what people in our community are using because otherwise they won’t see any need for the library and that would be a real tragedy for any community.

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Interview with Charlene Churchill (part 1)

This week’s staff interviewee is Charlene Churchill, the Ellsworth Public Library’s Director.  This is part one of the interview…stay tuned tomorrow for part two!

In your opinion, what is the most important service a library provides for its patrons?

I think the most important service is access to information and it can be information that’s in a physical book, it can be access to whatever is on the Internet, and it can be having professional staff available who are able to answer people’s questions. I think people really are lost if they don’t have someone they can turn to to get reliable answers to their questions.

What is your favorite book, author, and genre? If you have more than one, that’s ok!

Well, I’ll start at the end, I guess. I love mysteries because I find them so enjoyable. I can just read a mystery and sort of get lost in that and forget about whatever else I might have on my mind, so for me, they’re very relaxing, but they’re also a challenge for me to try to guess whodunit.

That said, moving on to to authors. I like a lot of the authors who wrote what are considered classic books. I like F. Scott Fitzgerald, I like some of Dickens, I like Anthony Trollope, who is a contemporary of Dickens, but his books present a different outlook from Dickens’. I like Ernest Hemingway. In terms of more up to date authors, I like Peter Matthiessen, I think he writes good literature. I like authors who write well, who write good stories, who write using vibrant language.

Hmm, favorite book…that’s really hard [laughs]. Unless it’s a horrible book, probably the last one I finished is my favorite, I don’t know how else to say it, cause I like so many books, I really do. And I like some non-fiction, too. I like reading biographies and I like reading history especially.

What are some noticeable differences between the library you visited as a child and the Ellsworth Public Library today?

Well, the library I visited as a child in the town I grew up in was a tiny little one room library and there were no computers, which is a really big difference. I mean, there was no Internet, none of that stuff existed. When I was growing up, and even still, because it’s a pretty small town, the librarian knew everybody, and knew what they liked to read, and knew everything about the person (which could be good or bad). We see so many people now that no one employee can get to know everybody and that’s a big difference, too. I think people are more anonymous, if that’s how they choose to be, which can also be kind of a hard thing for the person themselves, because some people definitely come to our library because they don’t have family or they don’t have close friends, or both and for them the library is a community place. It’s where they interact with other people. I guess that’s still the same in some ways because the library I grew up in was also a gathering place for people.

Check back in tomorrow for Charlene’s favorite library memory and her views on the growing popularity of ebooks.


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Interview with Ginny Dalrymple

This week’s staff interviewee is Ginny Dalrymple, one of the most recent additions to the EPL staff.

What is the most challenging part of the job?

So far it has been the amount of information to take it, everyone at the library has been really great about helping me with new things.

What is the most rewarding part of the job?

Helping people, whether it is finding a book or helping with computer questions, just an overall good feeling.

I’ve heard you are an excellent tennis player.  Are there any skills on the court that you call upon when you’re working behind the circulation desk?

Haha! Excellent might be a stretch….I play a lot of doubles tennis which relies heavily on communication, so hopefully I can use that skill with co-workers and patrons.

What is your favorite book, favorite author, favorite genre?

I really enjoy historical fiction, I will read anything by Ken Follett!

Thanks, Ginny!  It’s great to have you working with us 🙂

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