“Our last stop in Massachusetts is a beautiful library located on the village green of Lancaster – The Thayer Memorial Library. The library’s history reaches back to 1790 when the Lancaster Social Library was established but dissolved in 1850. It was followed by the Library Club, housed on the upper floor of the Town Hall. In 1866, the Nathaniel Thayer family created a trust fund with hopes of building a permanent building for the town’s library. Built in 1867, three years after the Civil War, this Renaissance style building with an octagonal Memorial Hall, four alcoves, and a gallery above was going to honor the Lancastrians who perished during the war. It became a centerpiece for the library.”
Barbara Eppich Struna
Library director Joe Mule´ was kind enough to answer a few questions. He gives us some insights into the future of libraries and the habits of readers.
What do you think the most pressing challenges are for libraries in the coming five years?
Public libraries are more vital than ever in Massachusetts. However, there are always challenges to providing the best services for the public.
Public libraries will spend a good chunk of time unpacking how COVID-19 obstructed the nature of Library work. In many cases, it was a positive experience and many innovative approaches to ENGAGE with the public were developed. At many libraries, after the doors reopened, patrons came back in droves.
I have been in this field for more than 20 years and I cannot think of a challenge greater than understanding what we are after Covid. It seems like a silly question but for a director its constantly on my mind. For instance, I’d say about 30% of what we do is characteristically programmatic. When you program, all types of people visit, not just readers. We do not have any idea when indoor programming is coming back.
COVID has not left the crime scene yet either. It has been a challenging December and the numbers are not getting any better. The Rockette’s closed and the rest of the entertainment industry in Manhattan is closing. What happens when an institution like the Rockette’s can’t kick their legs at the most critical time in their fiscal year.
I would argue that thinking beyond 2022 is a fool’s errand at the moment.
Are there ways that author and reader organizations like SinCNE can help you meet your challenges?
The Library was a founder and partner with 7 Bridges Writers Consortium. The group has been going for over ten years and is currently is having turnover with leadership. Their future is uncertain.
With that said I think there is a tremendous opportunity for local WRITERS to help burgeoning writers hone their craft. I think when done right with a structured approach it yields a tremendous amount of prestige for libraries as well as a boon to the writing organization.
Have you seen reading trends change over the years and how?
No, not really. Sure, there are more eReaders but not as many as you think. They are a growing segment but most people who read fiction and non-fiction prefer printed books. More books in English will likely be published in 2022 than in 2021. Throw on top of all the new authors available to American readers from Europe, Africa and Asia and there is an astonishing amount of quality literature out there.
The only significant disruption is with books on CD. People are flocking to streaming media for this content.
Have you seen an increase in interest for the mystery genre in recent years?
Mysteries are probably the most popular genre behind perhaps contemporary literature. I think that with the proliferation of crime podcasts, crime television here and from England, France, Australia, and Scandinavia people will always be hungry for quality content in this genre. Nevertheless, I would generally say that these readers are locked into their favorite authors and shows. Frankly, people never read that much; maybe six books per year on average. So, the usual suspects are sufficient to sate their reading wants with the usual suspects.
Occasionally you get the blockbuster titles from relatively unknown authors, but they are typically backed by the top publishers who get their name out. I’m thinking of the likes of Stieg Larsson and Gillian Flynn.
Aside from getting published the single greatest challenge for authors – even those who are excellent writers - is getting out to the average reader who, as I said does not read a large number of books in a year.
What are your library’s criteria for adding books to its collection?
- Knowing that what is purchased will be read.
- Other than that, knowing the publisher and finding reviews in the NYT, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, People, NPR, etc. will nearly always seal the deal.
Don’t forget to climb the wrought-iron winding stairway in the main entrance. And next to the library outside and within the town green is a long red brick outbuilding that was the stables for the Thayer family. It would make an interesting jumping off point for a mystery writer.
Thank you, Dale Phillips, fellow mister in crime, for a recommendation to visit his favorite library. If you have a favorite library, drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy writing, reading, and please stay safe,
Barbara Eppich Struna, international best-selling author and storyteller at heart, bases her tales on the history, myth, and legends of Cape Cod and her own personal experiences. Her suspenseful historical novels, part of her Old Cape Series, have won numerous literary awards and critical acclaim. Barbara is President of Cape Cod Writers Center; a member of International Thriller Writers, Member of Sisters In Crime, National, New England, Los Angeles, and Member in Letters, National League of American Pen Women. She also writes a blog about the unique facts and myths of Cape Cod. www.barbarastruna.blogspot.com You can follow her on Twitter- @Goodystruna, Facebook- B.E. Struna Books, Instagram- barbara_struna