Sunderland Public Library recognized for stellar service

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-08-2023 7:25 PM

SUNDERLAND — For its continued dedication to serving patrons, including adapting operations on the fly in response to the pandemic, the town’s public library has been awarded a 2022 Star Library rating by Library Journal, a prestigious librarian journal.

The Sunderland Public Library was awarded a four-star rating in Library Journal’s annual rankings, which take library visits, circulation, Wi-Fi use and website visits into its considerations. Rankings are broken up by annual expenditure range, and the top 10 state scorers are given five stars and the following 10 are given four stars. Sunderland falls into the $100,000 to $199,999 category.

Fiscal year 2020 data submitted to state and federal governments was sourced for scoring the 2022 ratings, meaning the pandemic affected only a few months of data for Massachusetts libraries — some states submitted data for the calendar year, depending on their laws. It also means some libraries previously receiving star ratings had their stats fall because they were closed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The library was among only 20 in the state and 258 public libraries nationwide to receive stars.

Library Director Katherine Umstot said it is an honor for small libraries to be recognized by a respected outlet.

“It’s really meaningful, especially since the pandemic has been so difficult for libraries,” Umstot said. “It doesn’t come with any money or anything like that, but it’s nice to be recognized by other librarians.”

Part of the library’s success in keeping the community engaged was its response to the pandemic. Umstot said the library’s staff quickly adapted to the changing world around them by reworking library operations and keeping an open line of communication with residents.

“It was definitely a difficult transition for everyone, but we made a real big push to remain communicative with our patrons and let them know we were there for them,” Umstot said, noting the library expanded its digital collections, offered curbside pickup and other alternative library services.

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With most of its services back to pre-pandemic levels, Sunderland Public Library’s Head of Adult Services Aaron Falbel said the library has kept some of its pandemic changes into 2023, including curbside pickup and the use of Zoom to allow for hybrid programming.

“We’re happy to cater to patrons’ desires,” Falbel said. “We want everyone to feel welcome and safe, that’s the bottom line.”

This marks the first time any Franklin County library was awarded Star Library ratings. While Williamsburg’s Meekins Public Library and Pelham Public Library were not awarded any stars this year, they been recognized several times by Library Journal, with the last coming as a four-star award in 2019 for Meekins and 2018 for Pelham.

Umstot said the rankings served as a boost for the Sunderland library’s staff because visits still have not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

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