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New library director seeks to update collection, restructure staff

by | Jan 13, 2022 | Featured, Featured: Features

Nanci Hill

Nanci Hill began as Hopkinton Public Library director last month. PHOTO/JERRY SPAR

Nanci Milone Hill has enough experience in libraries to fill a book. Now, she’s eager to apply her 20 years of wide-ranging expertise in her newly appointed position as director of Hopkinton Public Library.

Hill has had a lifelong love of literature and grew up spending time in libraries. She pursued higher education in writing and philosophy, obtaining her bachelor’s before pausing to have a family.

After her daughter was born, Hill accepted a position as library assistant in an elementary school in Gloucester — but, “I found out the first day, there was no other librarian! There was no one to ‘assist,’ ” she says.

She quickly gained exposure to various facets of library operations, prompting her to obtain her Master’s of Library Science from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. She then transitioned from schools to public library systems, serving as head of readers’ services at Nevins Memorial Library in Methuen, then director of Boxford Town Library and later director of M.G. Parker Memorial Library in Dracut from 2013-21.

Hill continued to expand her breadth of experience, honing skills in everything from staff development and community partnerships to budgeting and technology; from marketing and branding to grant writing, collection development and reader advisory services.

While her career has advanced at the administrative level, Hill notes: “My favorite aspect is meeting the patrons and helping them discover what they are seeking, whether recreational reading or information.”

Nanci Hill

Nanci Hill has a wealth of experience with libraries and even has authored a book. PHOTO/JERRY SPAR

Hill volunteered as president of Merrimack Valley Library Consortium (2014) and Massachusetts Library Association (2016). As an author herself, she’s published a book (“Reading Women: A Guide for Women’s Fiction Book Groups”) and several articles. She was inducted into the Massachusetts Library Association Hall of Fame in May 2018.

Somehow, Hill still finds time to read. “Never ask a library person their favorite book!” she says with a laugh. “We can’t choose just one.” Her current recommendations can be found on a Director’s Picks list in the library, but among her favorite authors are Anne Rice, Deborah Harkness and Barbara Kingsolver. “I appreciate their historical research and lyrical writing style,” she observes.

Hill plans to increase diversity and inclusion in the collection as well as in programming and services; for instance, expanding the selection of materials available in foreign languages. She also notes changes in how people use libraries, particularly electronic content such as audio and e-books, digital magazines and movies. The use of e-content doubled during the COVID pandemic, and the library will be taking a look at the proportion of the budget spent on e-content versus print.

Another area of focus centers on staffing. Like most organizations, recent staffing shortages have affected operations. Hill appreciates the support of substitutes and volunteers and part-time employees who have stepped up to fill in the gaps, but she says the library needs to bulk up the full-time staff in order to offer Saturday and Sunday hours. “We’ll be restructuring the organization in terms of staffing and ensuring job descriptions match the actual responsibilities,” she shares, adding they are currently interviewing for an adult services position.

Most of all, Hill is looking forward to getting out into the community and teaming up with businesses and nonprofits in town. “Hopkinton is a welcoming environment, and there has been a great show of support,” she says.

Hill’s office space is designed to facilitate interaction with the public, and she invites patrons to pop in or email anytime: “I’m really open to community input regarding what people are looking for in terms of content and services and how the library can improve,” she says. “Stop by and say hello!”

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