By Josh LaBella
Colleen Bailie leads the library system as executive director during a time when the library has seen yearly cuts and is struggling to not exceed its budget.
Bailie started out her career in information technology but decided to study librarianship after she realized she did not want to work in technology for the rest of her career. She said she got her start working in libraries by working in IT for the West Haven system.
“When I first got here I started looking at the computers,” said Bailie. “A lot of the computers hadn’t been updated in quite a few years. We didn’t have wireless yet. So I brought that in during that time. The website was really outdated. It was about 10 to 15 years old; so I updated that.”
Bailie said she started in West Haven about 10 years ago as the department head for tech services. According to Bailie, the connection she found between IT and library services is helping people. She said she also had always had love of literacy and reading.
The director said she got her master’s in library science from Southern Connecticut State University. She said she decided to work at a public library opposed to an academic library because she was able to do a lot more.
“The staff is a lot smaller,” said Bailie, “So, you’re not as confined to one spot. I kind of like that aspect.”
Bailie has worn many hats at the West Haven Library, saying she has worked in most positions. She said her favorite aspect of the job will always be the people.
“I like the fact that you get to immediately help people,” said Bailie, providing an example. “When someone comes in to use our computers in the reference room and you show them how to upload pictures of their grandkids on their Facebook account, that’s something that is an immediate help and they walk out with a good feeling. To me that’s what we’re here for.”
When the position of director came available, Bailie said she decided to take a shot at it. She says during her three-year tenure in the job she has enjoyed “steering the ship” and thinks they have come a long way. Still, she said budget cuts have made it difficult.
“Despite the fact that we’ve had to cut our hours and materials budget every single year, we have seen an increase in people coming into the library,” said Bailie. “There is a need for a vibrant library in town. First and foremost we are here for the patrons.”
Bailie said staffing is the biggest piece of their budget and if their funding keeps getting cut they will need to have less hours. She said sometimes scheduling can be like a jigsaw puzzle; trying to put the right people in the right places. When they have to change hours, Bailie said they try and be cognizant of how it will affect their patrons.
If she did not have to worry about the budget, Bailie said they would try and restructure the buildings to make more room for people as well as adding more chairs and tables. She also said they want to keep their book collection relevant and add a dedicated teen space.
“Bringing in more computers is also something I’d like to look at,” said Bailie. “I would love to do more programming as well but we can only do so much with the budget that we have.”
Bailie said books are a small piece of what libraries provide as they cover everything from helping people fill out resumes to looking up medical terms.
As far as the budget, Bailie said they are near the limit. She said they are in the process of looking at different types of fundraisers to raise money.
“We need one really good fundraiser, that we can hopefully make an annual event,” she said. But we haven’t stumbled upon it yet.”
As Bailie sees it, she is doing her best to keep up the staff’s morale. She said the library is not going anywhere, but the current system may change.