ELLSWORTH — Abby Morrow, who took the helm as community engagement librarian at the Ellsworth Public Library on Aug. 1, took career advice from a well-known figure in the literary canon: Miss Rumphius.
“She said, ‘You must do something to do make the world more beautiful’,” says Morrow, who saw the library as a perfect place to put the lupine lady’s counsel into action. “Libraries have so much potential to affect positive change.”
Morrow has connections to the Ellsworth Library that go back far longer than the eight years she has been youth services circulation librarian. The 2005 Ellsworth High School graduate remembers playing in the “boat room” as a child, and her first experience of losing a library book.
“I thought my life was over,” says Morrow. “I thought I wouldn’t be able to get more books.”
Morrow studied Spanish and philosophy at the University of Maine. She didn’t have a firm idea what to do after graduation, other than that she wanted to work for a community-centered organization.
She recalled spending time in libraries while studying abroad in Spain during college.
“I found them as this haven,” says Morrow. “I think the seed was planted early on.”
Morrow may live in Blue Hill now, but says she wants to enhance the library’s role as a “central meeting spot and connector” for residents from Ellsworth and beyond.
“The library is often really well-positioned to bring people together,” says Director Amy Wisehart. “We’re seen as a very trusted resource offering unbiased, neutral services to anyone who comes through.”
In her new role, which Wisehart calls a “reconfiguration” of several positions, Morrow will work to reach residents who may not yet be library users and seek to make the organization more visible and central to the community.
Morrow plans to use social media platforms and design programs intended to reach young professionals and youth, noting that millenials between 18 and 35 years old are more likely than any other adult generation to have visited a public library in the past year, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center poll.
Staff also are working to redesign the library’s website, said Wisehart, and part of Morrow’s position will include community outreach, implementing collaborative programming with other organizations and applying for grants.
“Everything will have a community-centered focus,” says Morrow, who is tasked with thinking creatively about the organization’s role in local issues. “What is the library’s place in meeting those goals?”
Toward that end, Ellsworth is participating in The Great American Read. It was the only library in Maine to receive a $2,000 grant to participate in the event, an eight-part television series and multi-platform initiative that celebrates the joy of reading and books.
Also as part of her outreach, Morrow attended Downeast Fantasy Con this past weekend and has been reading at the Down East Family YMCA as well as at Downeast Community Partners. She says the library hopes to have a “murder mystery night,” sometime in the future.
Morrow says she knows it can be tough to find time for reading in today’s busy world, which is why she recommends two strategies: “Always keep a book with you, and audio books.”
What is the librarian listening to now? “Circe,” by Madeline Miller, an epic tale following the daughter of the Titan sun god Helios and water nymph Perse.
Both Morrow and Wisehart say they are confident that despite increasing technological pressures and tight budgets, books and libraries will remain relevant for generations to come.
Wisehart says she hopes to leverage the organization’s space and position in the community.
“We want people to be aware of what we’re doing,” she says. “We’re seeking to bring people together.”