New library director wants to focus on bringing people, branches together
On Saturday mornings you can usually find Polly Gallagher curled up with a magazine sitting by the fireplace at the Fraser Valley Library. She spends her time paging through cooking magazines, gazing out the window onto the surrounding wetlands.
For Gallagher, that time is like a reboot after a hectic week; she finds serenity in those moments.
That, she says, is one thing that contributes to her love of Grand County’s libraries.
Her admiration of the local libraries ultimately led her to pursue the job as the district’s executive director, which she will begin Wednesday.
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Gallagher, 45, of Tabernash has been a resident of Grand County for nearly the past 20 years. She has served as a full-time teacher and director at Indian Peaks Charter School in Granby and in the human resources department at YMCA of the Rockies-Snow Mountain Ranch, where she worked on employee development and various projects and programming.
Her most recent position, as the Grand County Library District’s director of public services, expanded her background of programming work to focus on ways the library district could better serve its communities and highlight the individual branches while bringing them together as a whole.
She began that position in October 2018.
With only about six months of behind-the-scenes library experience, Gallagher admitted she was initially apprehensive to seek the position as executive director. That was, however, until she received a positive nudge from the previous director, Stephanie Ralph, who left the district earlier this year.
“Well, if she thinks I can do it, I’m going to go for it,” Gallagher recalled she thought at the time.
Gallagher, an avid bibliophile, described herself to be somewhat of an introvert, though she has a bubbly, ultra-friendly demeanor. She’s all about people and serving the community. Her new role as director will allow her to focus on opportunities for the library to continue to enrich and engage local residents.
“We can get everything and anything we want, even though we’re in a small community,” she said. “(Libraries are) a great access point.”
Libraries are about bringing people together, she explained, and no longer serving as just a repository of books. That’s been a sizable shift for the library district over the last several years, with the development of different programming and events tailored to attract those who might not otherwise utilize the resources of their local library.
Gallagher pointed to a specific program held earlier this year at the Fraser Valley Library that focused on mountain lion safety and awareness. More than 60 people attended, with people even lining up out the doors to listen.
“This day and age, we have all these different ways to get messages out, but it’s really about that one-on-one contact, that face-to-face time,” she explained.
People realizing the importance of libraries also shows in the significant increase in new library cards, as Gallagher explained nearly every month there’s about 100 or more new cards issued.
“We’re here to serve our community,” she said.
As the new executive director, Gallagher said she gets the opportunity to be a positive agent within the community. Her goals align with those of the overall district, to engage more people in different areas of interest. She highlighted the success of the Grand County Community of Writers, which meets regularly at the library, as an example of how the libraries can serve as a place to bring together groups and support one another.
Her primary role as director, as she explained, is to ensure the libraries in Grand County continue to be relevant and engage the entire population. That’s in addition to continuing the library’s part in enhancing literacy across all local age groups and maintaining the library’s more personal atmosphere, as Gallagher described it.
“It’s about getting to know people who use our libraries,” she said, which she indicated is quite a diverse group.
Her experiences with the libraries over the years have included a warm greeting, usually by name, perhaps recommendations for some new items to read and always a hearty smile.
“There was a bumper sticker campaign years ago: ‘Came for the peaks, stayed for the libraries,’” Gallagher explained. “It’s so true for me.”
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