Hoag director says library is engaging public

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 December 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Jeff Davignon, director of Hoag Library, outlines what he said are successes in the library during his first three months on the job. He spoke during Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

ALBION – In his first three months as director of the Hoag Library, Jeff Davignon has pushed to improve programming, signage and the environment at the library, trying to make the site more welcoming to people of all ages, particularly children, he said during Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

He believes the community has responded to the changes. He cited a door counter that tracked 9,311 people through the front door of the building from September through November, compared to 4,113 people during the same three months in 2013.

Davignon said the library has added children’s programming, including Minecraft and literacy efforts. The Minecraft game utilizes reading and science on a program where users interact with other players over the Internet.

“They are the future engineers of America,” Davignon said about Minecraft players. “The children are communicating, collaborating and learning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).”

The Minecraft players are also future adults, as are the other children that use the library, Davignon said. Hoag has created “The Loft” on the second floor for teens to study.

Davignon was criticized at Wednesday’s board meeting by library user Donna Wolcott for not providing enough oversight to teens, who she said use foul language and have public displays of affection.

Davignon said the teen programs and how to engage them is “a work in progress.” But he said he wants to continue to reach out to the age group.

“Having teens in the library has added vitality,” he said. “We’re going to try. We’re going to make an investment and see if it pays off.”

About 40 people attended Wednesdays’ board meeting, the first since last month’s contentious meeting when several residents said they were upset about changes at the library, including the termination of a long-time employee and other resignations or retirements.

The board responded to many of the questions from a month ago with more detail on Wednesday. Trustee Carol Miller spoke about the library’s “progressive levels of discipline” that include three steps before an employee is fired, unless the director deems one offense enough for a firing.

Trustee Linda Smith shared that a committee reviewed 20 applications for the director’s job and narrowed that pool to nine people who were interviewed. Davignon was picked by the committee and the board as the top candidate. He started in late August and is on a six-month probationary period.

Former trustee Patricia Cammarata thanked the board for open dialogue at the meeting. She asked that community members be able to send letters confidentially to one trustee, who would then share that information with other trustees.

Cammarata said some residents have left letters that haven’t been acknowledged by the board or library staff. The board has created an email account – hoaglibrary@gmail.com – to take questions from the community. Letters can also be sent to Hoag Library, 134 South Main St., Albion, NY 14411. Attention: S.L. Board of Trustees.

Cammarata would like the letters to be received away from the library. Library Board President Kevin Doherty wants to check with legal counsel on how to best do that.

Ken Braunbach also addressed the board and said he is disappointed about “character assassinations” some library officials have made in the public about his wife, Mary Anne Braunbach, a former board member and current president of the Friends of the Library.

“You shouldn’t discredit the Friends,” Mr. Braunbach said. “They work very hard finding money for the library, which helps you.”

Mrs. Braunbach addressed the board and she questioned if counting people through the doors has been done accurately, especially with people like herself who make frequent trips to the library, going back and forth to retrieve items from their vehicles.

She also said circulation numbers are the best way to measure if the library is seeing more use.

The circulation numbers weren’t available at the meeting.

Davignon said the library is assessing its collection. He would like to weed out seldom used books and replace them with more popular items.

He would like to establish community focus groups in the new year to help chart the library’s future and its programming. In early 2015, Hoag will introduce a new website, a 3-D printing program, credit card acceptance, and a consistent schedule of interesting programs for children and adults, Davignon said.

He welcomes ideas from the staff and community.

“If it’s a good idea, we’ll do it,” he said.