A library is a magical place, and part of that magic is the staff. Molly Newton is the Public Relations and Fundraising Coordinator at Radnor Memorial Library, and her story is not only interesting, but it perfectly sums up the wonder and fascination that can be found in every public library. Books are still amazing, but there is so much more to be discovered there! Let her take you on a delightful journey as you read through a summary of her life and life’s work.
Before Google became a verb people said, “Ask a librarian.”
As a kid, I was obsessed with knowledge. I wanted to know everything in the world. Absolutely everything. I loved facts and trivia, jokes and stories. I remember going to my local public library with my grandmother and checking out books about all the things I loved. My goal as a child was to read every single book in Malvern Public Library. I think I got to 5,000 before I lost count. Some of my favorites: 101 Beginning Spanish Words and a series of wonderful Jacques Cousteau (adult) books. My favorite trivia fact: William Howard Taft got stuck in the White House bathtub. That still makes me laugh. I never thought of being a librarian when I grew up, though. In my 5th grade yearbook when others said they were going to be veterinarians and presidents, I proclaimed, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a stuntwoman.”
Flash forward 25 years. My name is Molly Carroll Newton, and I am the Public Relations and Fundraising Coordinator at Radnor Memorial Library in Wayne, PA. I still love libraries, and I still love trivia. In fact, my husband DVRs episodes of Jeopardy to binge watch when we have time (I always win). My career as a stuntwoman never came to fruition. I’ve been with Radnor Library for six years, but my work with libraries started long before that. I started volunteering at Malvern Public Library when I was eleven, and ended up working there for nearly a decade through high school and college. Two amazing women, Rosalie Dietz and Linda Meachen, inspired my passion for libraries and showed me what libraries could do for a community. Unlike most of the full-time staff at the library, I do not hold a Master of Library Science. My degree is in Environmental Science from the University of Mary Washington.
I started at Radnor Library as the part-time Coordinator of Young Adult Services in 2009. I had just completed a year of service with Americorps, where I completed 1,700 hours of volunteer service working for Maryland Park Service. This job was as close to stuntwoman as I will ever get- I got to do cool things like chainsaw trees and work with birds of prey. In my original job at the library, I designed and implemented all of the programs for kids in grades six to twelve and purchased the books for the teen collection. In 2011, my job became full time as I became the Coordinator of Young Adult Services and Community Relations. In my capacity as Coordinator of Community Relations, I handled all of the library’s program publicity and helped to create and run annual fundraisers for the library. In April of this year, my position shifted again. I am now the Library’s Public Relations and Fundraising Coordinator and focus solely on those portions of my original job.
Radnor Library is currently in its 35th year in its current location on West Wayne Avenue. We moved into this location in April of 1980 with a “book brigade” of middle school students carting 77,000 books from the former George W. Childs Library on Lancaster Avenue. Things have changed a lot for the library since 1980. We have added over 50,000 items to our collection as well as 17 public access computers. We offer free wireless internet access and many more programs. However, with the advent of e-books and audiobooks, we have shifted our focus from growing our collection to becoming a space for community development and collaboration. Contrary to popular belief, libraries are now more important than ever. In addition to providing access to over 120,000 books, CDs, magazines, movies, and other materials, Radnor Library is host to a plethora of programs for kids, teens, and adults. Program topics range from storytimes, magicians, and singalongs for kids to art, history, and conservation lectures for adults. In 2014, the library held 477 programs for kids and teens and 77 programs for adults. Programs covered topics from history to art to science, and catered to people of all ages and backgrounds. We were open to the public 72 hours per week, and had over 175,000 people enter our doors throughout the year. That’s over 50 people per open hour!
I am one of the very fortunate people who gets to say “I love my job”. I spend most of my time at the library behind the scenes, designing posters, writing press releases, working on fundraisers, planning events, updating the library’s website, and more. Each day is different. That is one of the best things about working at the library. But Radnor Library is more than just a typical library to me. We are in the heart of a great town and have thrived due to the support of local individuals and businesses. We also have an incredibly dedicated and helpful staff. Our Information Desk is staffed every hour the library is open, and staff goes above and beyond to help patrons answer questions, learn new skills, and find books to read. Our Children’s Librarians provide 8 storytimes per week in addition to other programs and provide a wealth of information regarding Children’s Literature. Our Circulation staff is friendly and inviting. Our Business Manager keeps the library running efficiently. Our Technical Services Department processes new materials and mends those that have been “loved”. Our new director, Anny Laepple, provides a fresh approach to library service and is prepared to lead us into the future of library service.
When I get out of my office, I love to talk to patrons. One of our beloved patrons comes in each day. We talk about the Flyers and the Red Sox, but also about what the library means to her. She often tells me that the library is her second home. It’s where she comes to read the newspaper, but also to just be around and experience people and the community that happens within the library. I often cite this woman when people ask me if libraries are still relevant, which is a frequent question we encounter these days.
Libraries are amazing places. They provide free access to knowledge. They inspire passion and a place for collaboration. They are places for kids. They are places for adults. They are places for people to go when they have nowhere else to turn. Libraries are for everyone. Radnor Library is certainly the place for me. And for the record, I’ve never shushed anyone in my life.