Q&A: New Lee-Whedon director says libraries changing to be more dynamic

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 July 2020 at 12:15 pm

Kristine Mostyn says books remain popular, including with teens

Photos by Tom Rivers: Kristine Mostyn is the new director of the Lee-Whedon Memorial Library in Medina. She was the assistant director for 10 years under Catherine Cooper, who retired last month after 33 years at Lee-Whedon.

MEDINA – The new director of Lee-Whedon Memorial Library said the site on West Avenue has changed to offer more electronic materials and online programming. But she said books are still very popular, including among teen-agers.

Kristine Mostyn took over as director last month, following the retirement of Catherine Cooper, who worked at the library for 33 years.

Mostyn, 39, was the assistant director the past 10 years. She sat down for an interview on Friday in the “Teen Space” at the library, a spot with chairs and books for teenagers.

Question: Why stay here? It seems you have built up a resume and could go elsewhere?

Answer: I could and over the years there have been some offers from other libraries, asking me to apply there. But I really love the feel of Medina. It is a great community. It is very involved. All the businesses try to help each other. And the library and the people that work here are wonderful.

Question: Over the past 10 years this place has become more snazzy. How would describe these changes, how one big room has been several spots?

Answer: We made little spaces. We tried to do that because when you come in it is a giant room. It is nice to have that small feel, that it feels comfortable like you are at home.

Question: I’m sure people are wondering of the winter concert series, Finally Fridays, will keep happening?

Answer: I hope it will. We have plans to continue it as long as we are able to.

Question: That is an amazing thing that you get 200 people in here for those concerts on a Friday in February.

Is that unusual here at Lee-Whedon in creating the spaces, embracing artwork and having the concerts? It’s not just books and magazines.

Answer: We want to offer games and anything the people in the community want and need a space for. That is what we want to try to offer.

Question: I know you have a smaller meeting room. Is there local history in there?

Answer: There is. Right now it isn’t open. We call it the quiet room.

Question: What is your annual circulation and how has that been affected with e-Books, etc.

Answer: Our circulation is around 86,000. With electronics going up some of our print collections are going down. People are still borrowing materials, it’s just a different format.

Question: What do you see as the library of the future, or even the next five to ten years, if there will be big changes?

Answer: I don’t think there will be because overall electronic use has actually plateaued. The younger generation prefers books. There are times when they want a device when they are traveling for ease of use, but the teen-agers that are coming in are taking books so I don’t know that the print collection will change a whole lot.

Question: Why do you think that is?

Answer: It may have to do with them being on their devices so much that it’s a break from that.

Question: It looks like you still get a lot of new books. Have you had to shift some dollars away from books to electronics?

Answer: Our book budget has stayed fairly consistent. But how we divide it up between electronics and print changes. I know our Hoopla collection, which is online books and audio, with movies and TV shows on there, that used to be paid by the Nioga Library System. But starting in January, because the price has gone up so much, they can no longer do that. So we’re going to be taking on that cost which will be coming out of book budget.

Lee-Whedon has decals on the floor to encourage social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic. This one near the entrance tells people not to proceed if they have flu-like symptoms. The library returned to its regular hours on July 6. 

Question: I should ask you about Covid. I see the Plexiglass dividers at the circulation desk. I wonder what other changes you’ve made to be open to the public.

Answer: So we’ve purchased all of the floor stickers for social distancing. We’ve added additional hand sanitizing stations. We’ve provided face masks and face shields to our staff.

Question: Why face shields?

Answer: Some people don’t like having the mask on all day. Having the piece across their forehead is easier for them to tolerate. Also it is clear for people who are hard of hearing. They can at least see your lips to try to hear what you’re saying better.

We of course have to disinfect all the chairs and tables. We have carts in the foyer. We have to leave everything out there for three days before we can bring it in and check it in and put it back on the shelf.

Question: Is the idea that saves you from cleaning it with cleaning products?

Answer: Yes. They’re saying for the paper and plastic with books if you let them sit for 72 hours, anything that is on there should die.

Question: You reopened how recently?

Answer: Curbside started in May, then in beginning of June we started doing by appointment. You could come in for up to half an hour, and browse and leave. The second half hour we would take to sanitize everything.

On July 6, we started to be open for our regular hours and people could come and go.

Question: When I get up from this chair will someone have to come over and sanitize it?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Have you seen a significant drop in people coming in so far?

Answer: There is a significant drop. We’ve been talking about it. Some people aren’t aware that we are open. We have it up on social media, on our web site, and I’ve put an ad in the Pennysaver. We just added another sign outside that we are open, and please come on in.

We think some people are still afraid. They are just not sure. We have a lot of parents coming in without kids because they don’t want to take a chance with their kids being exposed to anything. So I think people are afraid.

Question: I think the interloan library program has resumed.

Answer: It has not resumed. They’re just not ready to start that yet. We are getting deliveries, but it’s just our books being returned to us, and we have to isolate those for 72 hours as well.

Kristine Mostyn is pictured with Samantha Covis, the new assistant director. Covis was a desk clerk the past three years. She has a master’s degree in library science from the University of Illinois.

Question: Are you happy to be in this line of work?

Answer: I love it. I order books, I order the DVDs for the collection. I see the numbers for what people are borrowing. I get to talk to people about what they like and try to make sure our collection reflects the community.

Question: It seems like all the libraries in our county have stepped it up with their facilities and programs. They aren’t just passive sites.

Answer: Correct. We aren’t just stagnating. When we closed on March 16, we had no intention of having online programming for summer because we’ve never had to. We’ve always done in-house. While we were closed we instituted all new software that all the staff had to learn while they were home.

Now we’re offering on-line summer reading, which is actually turning out really well.

Suzanne (McAllister, the children’s librarian) and I were both doing videos on Facebook. Parents could in and pick up a kit for their kids, and bring it home and do it with us through a video. They log their reading online on our beanstalk site.

Question: What else is there to say?

Answer: We have hired a new assistant director, Samantha Covis.

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