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Ashland - Local Town Pages

Profile: Meet Ashland’s Library Director, Paula Bonetti

Oct 26, 2020 12:09PM ● By Cynthia Whitty

Ashland Library Director Paula Bonetti and her staff are keeping basic library services accessible to patrons during Covid-19. (Photo/supplied)

Ashland’s public library is often described as the town’s educational and cultural hub. Up until March 2020, when Covid-19 hit, hundreds of library patrons of all ages streamed in and out of the Carnegie-style building at 66 Front St. for workshops, concerts, films, art exhibits, and more. These days, keeping basic services accessible is what occupies Library Director Paula Bonetti and her staff. Bonetti has been described by many patrons as warm, friendly and helpful, a key person in creating the community feel that residents treasure. In this interview, Bonetti, who has held her position since January 2002, talks about her role.

What attracted you to this job?

After completing my MLS in 2000, I decided to look for an administrative position. I was looking for a position in a small library within a reasonable commuting distance.

What is your job like?

When I started in Ashland in January 2002, both the community and the library were very different than they are today in 2020 . . . even without the curveball that Covid-19 threw our way. The constants are the overall administrative duties of overseeing the day-to-day operation of the library. I am responsible for the budget, and I do all of the purchasing for the adult collection. The variables are the changing interests and needs of the community as it continues to grow and evolve. Since we aren’t serving one target group in the community, it’s always a challenge to meet the needs of such a wide variety of people.

What do you like most? What do you like least?

The best part of my job is my interaction with our users. I love reading and listening to books and talking about them. I love that the community values the library and considers it an important town service.

My least favorite parts of the job are the administrative tasks . . . budget, reports, meetings. We’ve had some rough years during economic downturns and managing and planning was difficult. Covid-19 has presented new challenges, and we are working hard to provide the most services that we can without compromising the health and safety of the staff and our users.

What have been your greatest challenges and accomplishments?

Clearly, the building renovation/expansion [completed in 2005] was my greatest challenge, and my greatest accomplishment. I was only on the job three months when I got a call from the state saying that our waitlisted project would be funded. Looking back, we had amazing community support to move the project forward and a knowledgeable and dedicated Building Committee that ensured a quality building completed on time and under budget!

What are your professional goals?

My immediate goals are related to keeping staff and patrons safe while using the library. At the top of the list is figuring out how we can manage curbside pickup when the days get shorter, colder and perhaps snowy. I’m also looking at ways to keep the community engaged during these pandemic times. I expect we will shift more of our budget to electronic items to ensure that if we face any additional stay-at-home orders we can continue to provide cultural, recreational, and educational opportunity to the community.

What are your interests outside of work? 

Reading, listening to audio books. I like to craft, knit and crochet, but I’m clearly an amateur at all of these. I like all kinds of games and to entertain. A couple of years ago I started country line dancing for the exercise and socializing that goes along with it. I was getting pretty good at it but that’s another activity that ended with Covid-19. I like to be outside so I’m an avid walker and biker. Someday I hope to be on a bike path in Ashland! I’m fortunate to have great neighbors and friends to socialize with.

What are your personal plans?

Outside of work, I like to travel and stay active. About 10 years ago my husband and I decided to commit to two trips per year, one road trip and one air trip. We love our road trips! My husband is much more adventurous than I am, and more than once has opted to take us down a road less travelled. It’s given us some great stories. We’ve made some great friends on cruises and bus trips, and hope to see more of the U.S. and the rest of the world soon.

Post Covid-19, I’m looking forward to once again visiting museums, consignment and antique stores, and other impromptu stops that generally involve lunch or dinner . . . just because I can!

I have two sons that live fairly close by and one granddaughter, who has been such a positive presence during these crazy times.