New London library director to retire next month
New London — Suzanne Maryeski called her hiring as the executive director of the Public Library of New London a job “I waited my whole life for.”
It’s the reason her retirement next month will be a difficult one. She is leaving after nine years in New London for personal reasons but said it also was time for the library to bring in someone new, perhaps with some fresh ideas.
“I had to leave at some point,” said Maryeski, a 70-year-old mother of four who grew up in Waterford. “Loving the job as much as I did, it’s really not work when you love your job.”
Maryeski spent her time in New London as a tireless advocate credited with helping to boost funding, increase hours, expand programming and raise the profile of the library in the community.
“She’s enthusiastic, committed and was the driving force behind our thrust four years ago to increase the city’s contribution to the library,” said Daneen Roth, president of the library’s board of trustees.
There was a time, Maryeski said, when the library’s budget was so tight that it couldn’t afford to hire professional staff. Her advocacy paid off in 2016 when the city’s contribution jumped by 20 percent. The library has received small incremental increases from the city over the past several years and now has nine full-time employees, including three professional.
The vast majority of the library’s budget depends on taxpayer dollars and Maryeski argues it’s money well spent. The library hosts a vast array of programs and services — everything from free violin lessons and childhood literacy outreach to history talks and English language classes.
It has 25 public-access computers, two dedicated to job searches. Maryeski said the library assisted 4,758 people seeking jobs last year, one of the more important things the facility does. The library also lends free wi-fi hot spots to its patrons, a service it hopes to expand because of the demand.
“We’re here to give a leg-up to people who need it,” Maryeski said.
Municipalities in Connecticut contribute an average of 1.9 percent of their budgets to libraries. Maryeski said the city’s contribution of $843,440 is nearing, but not quite at, one penny for every budgeted dollar. The city pays for about 90 percent of the library’s operating expenses.
Funds for capital expenses to maintain the building come through grants, fundraisers and what Maryeski said was a modest endowment. The library currently is raising money toward an updated HVAC system, which will cost about $75,000.
Maryeski previously had worked at libraries in the more affluent towns of Madison and Farmington, where the difference in funding, and consequently the level of service to children, was stark when compared to New London.
Part of her effort to bridge that gap was establishing the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program to engage parents and expose children to new vocabulary. She also started the program in Farmington.
Maryeski held a congratulatory party Saturday for group participants at the library; it was attended by families, City Councilor Alma Nartatez and former school Superintendent Nick Fischer, among others.
Under Maryeski's guidance, the library also established an Adopt-A-Book program, the Non-Profit Resource Center, Discounts with Your Library Card and Food for Fines programs and instituted a weekly electronic newsletter and monthly social service Wednesday programs.
In all, the library boasted 942 programs last year. The library served about 55 people per hour and a total of 143,623 people walked through the library doors last year, Maryeski said.
“There’s stuff for every age group and every interest group you can think of,” Roth said. “We deliver a lot to the city for the amount of money they give us,” Roth said.
Studies have shown that for every $1 spent, libraries contribute $4 or more to the community they serve, Roth said.
The library is open seven days a week during the school year. Maryeski said being open on Sundays is essential for the working families who might not have another day to go out with their kids. It’s also free.
Roth said the library has posted the executive director position and already received several applicants. The board’s personnel committee will interview top candidates.
“We really need a special person,” Roth said. “We know we can’t replace Suzanne but we’re hoping to find someone to step in and help move things along for the sake of the community. The library really is the heartbeat of the community.”
Stories that may interest you
Gilbert Boro is the owner of Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds in Old Lyme, a spot that's free and child-friendly.
Montville High School graduated 144 students on Friday, June 14.
Class valedictorian Aidan Desjardins started high school in New London as a timid kid in an unknown environment. He said he found a community where he could excel. It changed him.
The graduating Class of 2019 was part of the second-most successful drama production in the school's history, seven state championships and more than 20,000 community service hours.