Part 1 of this history covered the period from the establishment of Russell Library in 1876 to the resignation of its second Director, Willis K. Stetson, in 1887. Part II covered the Library from 1887 to 1926, under the leadership of Laura F. Philbrook and Edna H. Wilder. Part III covered the administrations of Nathaly E. Newton and William Van Beynum, extending over 50 years from 1926 to 1978. Part IV covered the period from 1978 to 1997, with the administrations of Arlene Bielefield, Linda Rusczek, and Stuart Porter.
In this fifth and final column in the series, we pay tribute to Russell Library’s retiring Director.
Arthur S. Meyers, 1997—2016
|Arthur and Marcia Meyers|
At its March 26, 1997 meeting, the Russell Library Board unanimously voted to hire Arthur S. Meyers as Director of the Library. He began work on May 1 and immediately spearheaded new building and strategic plans for the 21st century, ‘Gateway to the Future.’
In 2000 the Library’s administrative offices moved to the Annex. The Library was made more accessible through renovations in the Children’s Department, Information Services, and lobby. With more people bringing in their own laptops and other devices to make use of wireless access, Information Services is now often filled to capacity.
Collections evolved with the needs and interests of Library patrons. The circulation of framed art prints, established in 1918, was discontinued in 1998. Audio and video collections expanded and new formats added as they gained in popularity. The promise of electronic books, music, movies and other resources was tantalizing. In 2005 AV Librarian Gail Thompson-Allen reported to the Board that “the future promises increased use of the currently cost-prohibitive downloadable service which she describes as ‘mind boggling’.”
With the changing times came new challenges. In June 2003 Community Services Head Robin Jacobsen spoke to the Board about the impact on libraries of the USA PATRIOT Act, enacted after the September 11, 2001 attacks. In 2006 there was an incident in which, as reported in the Board minutes, a few patrons “ran wild through the Library, trashing the Teen area where they had been sitting and eventually breaking a window. The Police were called.” In 2007 the Library installed filtering software on computers in the Children’s Department to protect children from the unsavory aspects of the Internet.
The Library’s popularity continued to grow, in good times and in bad. The Programs & Publicity Office developed an extraordinary program of adult cultural performances. The Job & Career Program, started in 2003, helped countless people with workshops, resources and advice on finding their next job. The International Film Festival, currently in its seventh year, screened unique films from around the globe. The Children’s Department continued its outstanding series of programs for children and their caretakers. The Veterans’ Writing Group was formed in 2012 out of a successful One Book, One Middletown program.
In October 2007 Arthur Meyers received the Community Diversity Award from Liberty Bank, and in 2009 Russell Library received the Connecticut Excellence in Public Library Service Award from the Connecticut Library Association.
Arthur S. Meyers retired effective February 19, 2016. Matthew Poland, former CEO at Hartford Public Library, has been selected to be the next Director of Russell Library. We wish him success in carrying on the rich legacy of his ten predecessors.