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Sarah Skinner brings outreach, programming to Bridgman library – Harborcountry News

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Updated: December 6, 2022 @ 10:51 am
Sarah Skinner recently took over as the new director at the Bridgman Public Library. She comes from the Niles District Library, where she served in several positions for the past six years.

Sarah Skinner recently took over as the new director at the Bridgman Public Library. She comes from the Niles District Library, where she served in several positions for the past six years.
BRIDGMAN — While taking a library course a few years ago, something sparked a fire within Sarah Skinner.
Little did she know, that course led to Skinner becoming the Bridgman Public Library director on Sept. 1. More than two months into the job, the Niles resident has plans for the library and engaging the surrounding community.
Skinner comes to the Bridgman Public Library from Niles District Library, where she served in several positions for the past six years. Skinner received her undergraduate from Western Michigan University, and her master’s degree in library and information science from Valdosta State University in Georgia.
Skinner sat down recently with Herald-Palladium Local News Editor Tony Wittkowski to discuss her role with the library.
Why did you take the job?
Well, I wanted to see about making my vision of what a library should be, come to reality. Because when I was working at Niles, I was the head of adult services. I mean, I just kind of ran a department. I didn’t really help much with the actual vision and direction that the library was heading in. And I had some really great ideas for the future that I thought I could implement if I was a leader at a library and the opportunity came up.
What was the process like? How far back did you hear about the opening for this place?
I started interviewing in the beginning of August, and I did a couple rounds of interviews with the board. They had set up a special committee to look for a director. So I interviewed with a couple of groups of them. And then I finally interviewed with a group of staff members. So that was really interesting. And I really appreciated that because it gave me the opportunity to meet some of this staff members, and really interact with them and get a feel for the culture here.
Tell me about where you were previously. I believe you mentioned that you worked at the Niles library?
That’s correct. I was at the Niles District Library as the head of adult services. I oversaw the computer lab, the information desk, adult programming, things like that. I helped create a makers lab and a seed garden. I’m hoping that I can do some of those kinds of things here as well.
Where did you come up with those ideas?
It was more of ideas that I got from some library conferences. I had attended several library conferences. So they talked about all of the new trends that are coming to libraries right now. And it was just a matter of deciding which ones I thought our community would like and then finding a way to implement them.
We talked about you taking your master’s courses on library and information science. What encouraged you to do that while you were working in Niles?
I started at Niles just as desk staff in the computer lab, because I had a pretty strong technical background with software. I was working part time after my children went to school, and I really, really enjoyed it. The Library of Michigan requires everybody take a beginners course to work in libraries. So I went to this course and all of the things that they were talking about just really sparked a fire in me.
It was all things that I believed to be true as a librarian. I’m like, “Hey, I believe in that too. You know, I can really get behind this.” So I talked to the previous director at Niles about what I could do to be more involved in the library. We decided that if I wanted to pursue my master’s degree that there would be a place for me there.
How long did that take?
Three and a half years in total. I just went part time because I was working on a full-time basis. I also had a young family, and both of my kids were young at the time. So, I only had a little bit of time for this.
So you started prior to the pandemic and you finished it about a year in?
At the end, it was easy while I was doing it, because everything was online. But once I graduated, it was a little bit tougher because all of those celebratory things you do when you graduate, well, it was just kind of hard to get back into the swing of things after being online so much.
How did you parlay that into the role that you had at Niles prior to coming here?
I really feel like it helped because I got to interact with a lot of patrons. Just being able to identify what specifically that person needs help with, because sometimes when they ask you a question, it’s very vague. They don’t know exactly what it is that they want, and you kind of have to dig a little bit deeper to figure out what exactly you can do to help them.
What is your favorite part about having any role within the library system?
Honestly, my favorite part is collection development. I really love reading the book reviews, seeing what’s coming out, analyzing what the community likes and dislikes and ordering appropriately. Obviously, we have to order within a budget so that is always a consideration as well. But just making sure that what I purchase is what the community wants is very important to me and I take great pride in doing that.
What are some of the goals that you have for this library specifically?
Well, some of our long-term goals are to bolster our programming. I would like to get more programming aimed toward teens and tweens. We don’t have a whole lot for them right now. We do really good for the little kids. But once they get a little bit older, we don’t provide as great of service as we should. So, we’re going to improve on that.
I’d also like to do a little more family programming. Parents have to bring their kids to these programs, but I want the programs to be interactive in a way that the parents are enjoying it too. They’re not just here for their kids. They’re here for family experience. So I think my main goal is just to make the library as welcoming as possible. I want it to be very inclusive. I want it to be a safe place for everybody.
Do you have a favorite book or series you tend to gravitate toward or is it always just a revolving door?
Well, I try to read a lot of different things just to keep myself on top of what’s coming out. But I really, really enjoy historical fiction. So that’s one of the genres that I prefer to read in my spare time. I’ve gotten a little more into nonfiction just in general, like if it’s something where I’m going to learn about an event or a person. I found that I’ve become more interested in those as well.

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