David and Joyce Milne Public Library children's librarian Mindy Hackner poses in front of the mural she painted in the children's room story well.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Mindy Hackner has been teaching lessons to area youngsters for two decades, and she is teaching them one more as the calendar turns to 2013.
"Change is good, in my estimation," Hackner says. "Change is essential."
And change is coming to Williamstown's David and Joyce Milne Public Library, where Hackner has been the children's librarian since 1998.
Earlier this week, Hackner gave her notice at the Milne in order to accept the position of library director at the Dalton Free Public Library.
The news likely brings mixed reactions for families who have come to rely on Hackner's presence and the programs she has spearheaded at the Milne: happy for her new opportunity, sad to see her go.
But she is quick to point out that her colleague, Helen Olshever, is not going anywhere, and she will continue to provide the same experiences that children and their parents have come to enjoy at the town's library.
And if some things do change, so much the better, Hackner said.
"There will be somebody new in there with a whole new approach," she said. "That's good. It keeps it young. It keeps it vital. It's important.
"Change is tough but important."
On Friday, Hackner talked with iBerkshires.com about her time at Williamstown's public library.
Question: You told me the other day your time here goes back to the library's old home?
Answer: I started at the Milne when it was at the Botsford House in 1995. There was a children's room, and the children's librarian was Pat Malone. I was hired part time for circulation. ... I worked at the front desk in circulation for the next three years, and we came here in 1996. In 1998, we lost (director) Joyce Jack and Pat Malone at the same time. I was hired by the selection committee that hired (current director) Pat (McLeod). They needed a children's librarian quickly, and because of my experience with children's literature - I had been a preschool teacher - they hired me.
Then they hired Pat and asked if I would be willing to get my master's (degree in library science). I had two children in college at the time, so I did it slowly and got my degree in 2003.
Q: Where did you study?
A: At the State University of New York in Albany. But I did my internship here in Williamstown at Chapin Hall in the rare books library, which was a load of fun.
Q: What kind of changes have you seen in the children's room over the years?
A: Some of the things I inherited. Some of the things are standard. I guess the biggest thing we do is the summer reading program.
The department is a complicated one because we're serving families from pre-birth, really, we have a great selection of prenatal books up to 12- or 13-years-old, until people become independent readers. It requires a number of different breakouts into areas of support and cooperation with the schools to help meet their curriculum needs.
One of the biggest things we do is encourage kids to read over the long summer break. If they don't, they'll lose ground. It's a good time to introduce kids to all kinds of good literature for fun. We pull in entertainers, and we try to mix it up each year and make it fun.
Q: And you've seen a lot of kids.
A: I have seen a whole generation of children come through in 14 years in that room. My (former) junior librarians, to see them come back as college students and now I'm seeing them come back as postgraduate students ... It's immensely rewarding to see that.
The more subtle thing is giving a child the right book at the right time. It doesn't always happen, but when it does, it's special.
The other thing I'm pleased with is we're fine free. That's something I fought for. We want to teach kids proper ownership and care for books, but we don't think penalizing them is the right way to do it. Families are cooperative with that and grateful for that.
Q: Is one of the bigger changes in recent years the growth of the home schooling movement and how they use the library?
A: Home school families really know how to use the library. We've had a home school book group meet here the last two years. ... They love the interlibrary loan program because one library can't serve all their needs. We have families come from as far away as Dorset and Manchester (Vt.) to over into New York State. There's something called the tri-state home school group.
They've also found our collection in the Milne to be really deep. Collection development is another thing that has been really important to me.
Q: How has technology changed the children's room?
A: It's hard to figure out the role of technology. We've gotten some feedback from our parents. We've shown children an iPad in story times and run into difficulties you can have downloading even children's books that are interactive and fun. You can run into software glitches.
We're hearing from parents that they know there's a difference between sitting with a child in your lap with a great picture book and having something electronic that's a bit interactive and the children can be distracted. ... There's something that can happen at a more intimate level between a child and a book that doesn't happen in the electronic world, and parents know it.
Q: What are some of your strongest memories from these 14 years?
A: I've had two outstanding experiences that will stay with me the rest of my life.
The first was there was a young boy who wrote on the MCAS, in the essay section, about people who impacted your life, and he wrote about his librarians. That was really touching.
And then just recently, one of my junior librarians decided to shift (college) majors and decided to study library science. She said she remembers those years in the library as a time when seh was genuinely happy.
I will take those memories with me. It's a great job. I don't know that I'll ever have another job quite like it. It was a very difficult decision to give my notice.
Q: And your last day is Jan. 2 but you're on vacation until after Christmas. Is it going to be a little easier to say goodbye without having to see as many people day-to-day between now and your last day?
A: I think it will be. I feel badly. My colleague Helen (Olshever) will still be there, and she is another anchor. It's not like things are going to change, and the kids love her to bits.
It's very hard to say goodbye to the staff. I think I'll see many of the families from time time. We're not moving from the community. We're staying in our [Williamstown] home. And with email and everything, I know I'll be hearing from them.
Q: How familiar are you with Dalton's library?
A: Because of my position in Williamstown, I've been to a lot of trainings with librarians from around the county. I know through colleagues about the small libraries in the area. I think it's pretty much the same as Stockbridge's library and a little smaller than Great Barrington's. Each one is unique.
I'm very familiar with libraries in general because I go to see them when I travel around. The local library is always the first place I go. In fact, that's how I ended up working here.
I moved to Williamstown in 1994, and I wanted to find out something about it. The first thing I did was go to the Botsford library. ... I loved that old library. I was really impressed with Williamstown's library. It was Marcia Gross who told me there was a part-time circulation position opening up, and I grabbed it. That was the best thing I've ever done.