As Kerrie McMullen-Smith and James Provencher chatted at her desk earlier this week, the longtime friends shared jokes and even finished each other’s sentences at times.
Their clear bond will continue to benefit the co-workers, who were recently appointed, respectively, director and manager of Riverhead Free Library. The latter position was created during a library board meeting last week.
“I didn’t think I would be sitting here, but I’m so happy I am,” said Ms. McMullen-Smith, who officially assumes her new role Jan. 10. “When they approached me to be interim director I thought it was a great opportunity.”
Her appointment comes nine months after former director Joy Rankin resigned just months shy of the end of a three-year contract that began in August 2013.
Since being named interim director this summer, Ms. McMullen-Smith has already implemented numerous changes to the library’s structure and programs, with positive results.
She applied for two grants that the library received this fall: an $11,000 construction grant from the New York State Education Department for the teen room and a $6,000 bullet aid grant from state Sen. Kenneth LaValle’s office, which will be used for updates to the children’s room.
While construction updates are underway, Mr. Provencher said, the library, which unveiled a new website Monday, will also work to upgrade technology offerings and connectivity.
“It’s very important to keep the traditional aspects in place, but to also consider newer things libraries have to offer,” Ms. McMullen-Smith said.
Multiple new programs for patrons of all ages have also been launched. These include weekend children’s programs — which haven’t been offered in recent years — an after-hours teen program with games and pizza on Friday nights and Amigas Latinas, a support group to help Spanish-speaking women engage with their families and community.
The new programs have already had a positive impact, she said, bringing the library nearly 5,000 more visitors during November 2016 than it had in November 2015.
“The diversity is great,” Mr. Provencher added. “It’s so nice to help so many people with so many different things. Providing an array of services for that wide of an array people is very rewarding.”
While they’ve already seen successes, and each has spent at least a decade at the library, both new appointees said they’re still on a learning curve.
“It’s a lot of getting your feet wet,” Mr. Provencher said. “A lot of learning and growing. But it’s all good.”
Ms. McMullen-Smith started at the library 10 years ago as a reference librarian and was later promoted to head of reference, where she spent two years until becoming interim director this summer.
Similarly, Mr. Provencher had worked in the reference department for 12 years and was named the head of the reference department this fall, following Ms. McMullen-Smith’s promotion.
As library manager, Mr. Provencher will assist the director by supervising both professional and nonprofessional staff as well as taking responsibility for some programs and services.
He will also fill in for the director when necessary.
“I think it’s a great idea,” library board trustee Dean Terchunian said at last Tuesday’s meeting. “There’s a lot of cohesiveness with our new director and Jim and I think it’s going to work out great.”
Photo caption: James Provencher has been appointed Riverhead Free Library’s manager, a new position, and former interim director Kerrie McMullen-Smith has been appointed director. (Credit: Nicole Smith)