For more than a decade Mattapoisett’s Free Public Library has been at the heart of the community, keeping pace with evolving technologies and the needs of the people it serves. At no other time in the library’s history has it seen such swift-moving changes and associated demands. And there, deftly and expertly guiding this critical institution, has been the Library Director Susan Pizzolato.
But nothing lasts forever. Pizzolato recently announced that she would be retiring in June. Now the library trustees face the daunting task of replacing a highly respected and much-appreciated library director. The general consensus from town hall to neighborhood streets is that Pizzolato will be very hard to replace.
“She will be tremendously missed,” declared Selectman Paul Silva, noting that since Pizzolato was hired, the changes and improvements that she has made to the library programming and the management of the staff reached, “…levels that could never have been imagined.
“I’d match our library up against any in the state,” said Silva. He said finding someone to replace Pizzolato would be difficult at best, noting not only her professionalism but her “warm, caring manner.”
Echoing those sentiments was Selectman Jordan Collyer who said, “Of all the retirements (he has had to face during his tenure), she’s the one I’m going to miss the most! She has been phenomenal… there isn’t a generation in town that doesn’t like to talk to her.”
Silva and Collyer concurred, “…those are big shoes to fill.”
Aiding the town’s search committee is Community Paradigm Associates, LLC, a professional recruitment firm headed by Bernard Lynch.
After meeting with the search committee, which includes Library Trustee Chairman William Osier, Ruth Jolliffe, Jennifer Russell, Jennifer McIntire, and Bill Coquillette, Lynch said that a job description will be drafted and posted by mid-February. Applications will be received through March and reviewed through April with the goal of securing viable candidates for the Board of Selectmen’s review in May.
The task will be made difficult, both Jolliffe and Osier said, because of the high bar set on every level by Pizzolato.
“We’ll need someone with imagination, able to craft programming, someone who is respectful with the same attention to the staff,” said Jolliffe.
“She’s earned her time off,” stated Osier but, “…it’s a job with many facets. It’s important that we find someone with a vision for the future.”
Osier said Pizzolato’s retirement is also going to be felt by the staff she leaves behind.
“She is well-loved by the staff,” he said. “It will be a difficult transition so we are going to involve them all along with way… no surprises.”
For her part, Pizzolato feels blessed to have been given the opportunity to serve Mattapoisett.
“I love Mattapoisett,” she quietly said. And she was thinking about the library staff when she sat down with the Wanderer, giving them much credit for the high level of programming and satisfaction the community feels about their library. “The library staff’s opinions are critical.”
Pizzolato said that libraries have to be safe welcoming places no matter how people define themselves. On that point, she said that the library and its staff have worked with the Healthy Tri-Town Coalition and other school programs in serving the LGBT community. “They are discrete in helping those who are looking for materials, helping them discover what they need,” she said.
From computer technology to fishing rods, from three-dimensional printing to telescopes and baking pans, and reading and writing programs for all ages, the libraries of today must address much more than books, Pizzolato said. “People are still surprised when they come in and find all the things we have for them.”
Adding the cultural events, lectures, classes on cooking or jewelry making and poetry reading, under Pizzolato’s leadership the Mattapoisett Free Public Library has blossomed into a community center with something for everyone.
Yet the challenges of the future include the most basic element, serving the public. When asked what she felt the biggest challenges facing the library and a new director, Pizzolato said, “…reaching out to people in the community to those who may not be served.”
Her own commitment to public service is the driving force in everything she has striven to accomplish. “I’m proud that the library has met the expectation of the community… people are excited about what they find here. We are so much more than just novels.”
Pizzolato also expressed the importance of having a town administration that believes in the “value-added” of a strong library. “Some communities don’t have that; our town leaders really see the importance of the library.”
Pizzolato looks forward to having time off, time that she can use to enjoy her own reading and writing as well as attending cultural events and visiting her out-of-state family. But retirement can be bittersweet.
“Public service has given me a great source of pleasure,” she sighed before gently adding, “Mattapoisett has been very good to me.”
Mattapoisett Free Public Library
By Marilou Newell