City welcomes new library director

Joan Stokes has taken over as the city’s library director, succeeding her predecessor of 17 years, Elspeth ‘Essie’ Lydon.

Months after Elspeth “Essie” Lydon retired from her position as the city’s director of libraries for the past 17 years, Shelton now welcomes her replacement, Joan Stokes.

“You know you have been in a community awhile when the kids who had come into the library in baby carriers with their parents now are asking for books on high school reading lists, and little ones who had been in story times are on the rolls for college graduations,” said Lydon in the city’s most recent version of Shelton Life.

Stokes brings with her 26 years of experience as a librarian and is most recently leaving her position as a librarian in Southbury.

She said she expects the biggest change for her will be transitioning into the older-style library building that Shelton has, compared to the more modern library she worked at in Southbury. Despite any adjustment period that may come with working in a new environment, Stokes said, she believes the “wonderful staffs” at both the Plumb Memorial and Huntington branch libraries will help her to adapt over time.

As the director of libraries, Stokes will oversee all functions of the library, take part in the budget process, manage staff and handle staffing issues, manage book selection and program planning, and “most importantly, make sure all of the patrons’ needs are met.”

“What I want to do is go in and continue to build upon what the libraries’ staffs are already doing so well,” said Stokes.

Libraries then versus libraries now

Technology has undeniably changed the world.

Technology has also affected the way libraries function and what their role is in a community, according to Stokes.

She said when she began as a librarian, she never imagined that she would spend as much time as she does on a computer.

Despite the change in the dynamics of libraries over time, Stokes said, the backbone of the library will always be books.

“Many people don’t know that libraries have much more to offer than books,” said Stokes. “We are now cultural- and community-centered, and also enriching programs and electronic resources.”

Along with having a passion for books and knowledge, Stokes said, she looks forward to continuing to enlighten the community about all that the libraries in Shelton have to offer.

“I have a strong music background, so I would like to explore the possibility of doing a concert series. I’d also like to see what local authors are in the area and have them come in, possibly start culinary classes, schedule art classes, and add more book groups as well,” said Stokes.

Stokes said she hopes that in her new position she can make the community aware that the library is also a place to access new DVDs, music and electronic books that can be downloaded for free.

“Many people also don’t know that they can access and return materials to any library in the state with the possession of a library card,” said Stokes.

She added that she would like to hear from the community to gain insight into what else people would like to see in the libraries.

“You guys are the ones we want to hear from, you can tell us what you’d like to see,” said Stokes.

Above all, Stokes said, there’s one reason her love of working in a library has carried over for more than 20 years.

“The most rewarding thing about working in library services is that every age level and almost every person that comes through the door leaves ‘changed’ in some way or another as they go,” said Stokes. “It could be a small child coming in for story time or a small science lesson, or as serious as people coming in and finding out information about a new job. It can truly be something life-changing. I am grateful I get to see this on a daily basis.”

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