Saturday, May 16, 2015

Meet Olney's New Branch Manager, Barbara McClayton!

Barbara started her career with Montgomery County Public Libraries more than twenty years ago as a part-time children’s librarian at Olney. Since then, she's served many roles in the system, such as Librarian II and Senior Librarian, at branches across the county, and in the Administrative Offices in Rockville. Most recently, Barbara was the Branch Manager at Chevy Chase Library.    

Barbara at the New Books Display!

Welcome back to Olney Library! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’ve been a librarian for most of my adult life. I’ve worked for Montgomery County Public Libraries for over 20 years. It’s great to come back to Olney. The first time I worked here I could carry my son on my hip; now he’s 23! So it’s a little bit different. The building is gorgeous, and I’m still seeing some of the customers I served when left about six years ago.

What are some of your memories of Olney Library when you started in the 1990s?   

When I came to Olney we had two Information Service desks: one in the children’s area and one for adults, and staff didn’t work at the opposite desks. Now we train information staff to serve all customers, from children to seniors. I think that makes it easier for our customers. 

Barbara, circa 1994

In what ways has Olney Library changed, or stayed the same?

The biggest change in Montgomery County Public Libraries is in the way we use technology. We use it in the way we serve our customers and in the way we communicate with each other. For example, when I first worked at Olney, we communicated with notes and paper memos. Now we rely on email. We had a big reference room with all kinds of books. To keep them up-to-date, publishers released annual supplements. Now we have databases that can stay current.

In the 1990s we did very traditional preschool programming. Preschool storytime was for children ages 3-5. Children attended by themselves; it was meant to be a “first independent experience.” MCPL has embraced the idea that parents and caregivers are the first teachers, so we want them to attend our programs to learn more about how to promote early literacy. We also expanded our early literacy programs to younger and younger children. Now we also include STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) elements in our programs.  

Promoting Olney's "Money Smart Week" activity

What do you like best about the new eco-friendly building?

I LOVE the windows—the great big windows— they let in so much light. I think the shape of the building and the way it soars to the sky is just breathtaking, as you’re coming down the road.    

Are there programs you’re looking forward to working on or bringing to Olney?

I’m looking forward to looking at what the community needs. I think we need to look at the demographic profile of our community. We need to consider the people who are "aging in place." People who were parents when I was here the first time are now in “seniors” category, and seem to be staying in their homes. We also have additional residential areas for seniors here, and both assisted living and independent living, that we didn't have when I left. And Good Counsel High School opened right after I left, so we have more private schools and public schools in our service area that we need to serve. I plan to spend the first year learning about the community and evaluating the programs and services we currently provide.

Helping a customer at a public computer 

We know you are an avid reader, often reading several books at once. Do you have any recommendations?

I think the book I read in 2014 I liked the best was a book called “Stella Bain.” It’s a slim book. Anita Shreve is the author, and she’s one of my favorite authors… I really like her a lot. This book very much surprised me, because it wasn’t one of her characteristic books. I liked it because it dropped you into the middle of the story, and then you have to solve the puzzle. So even though it was a slim volume, it made me think. 

I am a cookbook collector. I particularly like cookbooks that groups made, although lately I’ve been collecting a lot more vegan and vegetarian ones for my family. I read them more than I cook from them, because I think they give you a window into the community. If a church, a synagogue or a school does a cookbook, it’s very interesting to see what the eating habits for those communities were, and the different ethnicities and what they bring.  

I read a lot of fiction. I still bring home non-fiction, though. I just read the new Laura Ingalls Wilder autobiography. It’s a really big coffee table book, it’s very interesting, I had a lot of fun with that, because I read the Little House books when I was a child and shared them with my own children.

I try to at least look at everything that wins a prize, although a lot of years I don’t get through all of them.   

Answering calls at the Info Desk

Can customers find you at the Information Desk?

They can find me throughout the library! I like working on the desk, and I try to go on the floor all the time, to walk around and see what’s going on. Today I walked around the outside of the building to see what that was like… I try to be on the desk at least an hour every day, maybe two, so that I can see what customers really want. I really like questions and that’s why I became a librarian.

Is there anything you’d like to add?
I’m thrilled to be back, I’m already having fun! I hope that I can work with the staff to make the library experience for our customers just stellar here in Olney. 

Thank you, Barbara!  We’re glad to have you and your wealth of knowledge and experience back at Olney. 

An upcoming post will highlight some of Barbara's favorite books, reference tools, and DVDs.

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