SEABROOK – This month, Seabrook said goodbye to its beloved library director Ann Robinson, who retired after more than a decade of creating a welcoming, progressive and nurturing environment at the Seabrook Public Library.
At their Dec. 17 meeting, selectmen presented Robinson with a special commendation for her work. According to Selectwoman Theresa Kyle, an avid library user, Robinson was the power behind making Seabrook a “first rate” public library with a 40,000-book repository.
Kyle said the programs, collections, special offerings and general assistance Robinson provided at the library made it a “major community asset.” In no small part, she said, Robinson’s leadership and can-do attitude led to more people finding satisfaction and help when they walked through the library doors.
Kyle’s fellow selectmen, Ella Brown and Aboul Khan, agreed, as did Town Manager Bill Manzi.
“Ann, (I wish you all) the best, the best, the best,” Manzi said as he hugged her. “It’s been a pleasure working with you.”
Arriving 11 years ago after the library endured a rough patch with the townspeople, Robinson was a librarian who greeted people with a smile instead of a shush. She listened to the community and tailored her actions to provide residents what they wanted.
“I think the best thing I did was build back the community’s trust,” Robinson said. “I made sure we did the things we said we’d do. I tried to connect the library with the community in a way that would build bonds.”
Susan Schatvet, who for 10 years worked as Robinson’s second-in-command, said Robinson definitely moved the library forward, allowing new programs.
“Ann was a great boss,” said Schatvet, who the library trustees just named as Robinson’s successor. “Ann didn’t micro manage. She liked (staff members) to present new ideas. And if you were excited about something, she let you run with it. She was very open to new things.”
Schatvet said the library’s close relationship and outreach practices with Seabrook Elementary School is a sample of a program Robinson encouraged. Seabrook children’s librarian Gretyl Macalaster is often at the school working with teachers and others to promote reading with the students at SES.
“Ann knew that was one of Gretyl’s strengths,” Schatvet said, “so she let her run with it.”
If the goal of a librarian is to encourage people to read and use his or her facility, according to some interesting numbers, Robinson succeeded.
According to Schatvet, people are still reading conventional books as much as ever. But, 2018 saw a 20-percent increase in the use of the library’s digital collection and a 19-percent increase in borrowers. Plus, the library’s “hold requests” for popular items has gone up an amazing 264 percent.
A New Hampshire native, Robinson knew she wanted to become a librarian as soon as she left UNH with a bachelor’s degree in French. She went directly into a program at the University of Rhode Island, earning a masters in library sciences.
Seabrook was her first berth as a head librarian for a community library, but she spent years running medical libraries at both Draper Labs, a research and development facility near Boston, and at Wolfboro’s Huggins Hospital. From there, she took over as a school librarian at Moultonborough Academy in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, before going to Seabrook.
After years away, Robinson’s back living in Durham, in the home in which she was raised. But she isn’t planning on being idle. Always an animal lover, this week she got an application to become a volunteer at New Hampshire’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“I’d like to work with abandoned horses, because I’m a horse owner,” she said. “And I’d also like to foster kittens, raise them until they’re ready to be adopted.”
Robinson said she’s looking forward to retirement, but, by far, what she’ll miss the most is the people she leaves behind, not only members of the community, but the staff she worked with for more than a decade.
“I feel like I just lost 10 of my best friends,” she said.