EASTHAMPTON – Katya Schapiro was 7 years old when she ran her first card cataloged library in the attic of her family home. The Northampton native had no idea that when she sorted the one and only bookshelf in the “bookworm library” decades later, she would tackle the same role in the nearby town.
âThe circle is complete,â she said with a laugh. âClearly, I’ve always been around the zone a bit. “
Schapiro assumed the role of director of the Emily Williston Memorial Library on December 6. She succeeds Nora Blake, who was director of the library for five years before becoming director of the Ipswich Public Library in August. In the interim, the director’s responsibilities were split between three staff: Adult Services Librarian Stephanie Levine, Youth Services Librarian Moira Cranshaw and Jonathan Schmidt, Senior Library Assistant, Youth Services.
Schapiro holds a master’s degree in library and information science from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College, New York. She has a background in education and the non-profit arts, publishing and theater. She spent 10 years at the Brooklyn Public Library as a grants program coordinator, children’s librarian, and most recently a manager.
âI’m really going home. I lived about 20 years of my life in New York and 20 years here. I have a lot of love for both areas, but I am delighted to be back and to start new opportunities here, âshe said. “I think one of the best ways to join or join a community is to work for the public library.”
As she settles into her new role, Schapiro said she hopes to work on collaborations with the city and other nonprofits in an effort to develop the library’s role in Easthampton. Like many other libraries in the region, funding has been a challenge. But unlike others, Emily Williston Memorial isn’t actually a city service, it’s an independent nonprofit that works in partnership with the city, Schapiro said. Easthampton provides the library with municipal funding of $ 218,927, which, according to a previous Gazette report, is just over half of the library’s overall operating budget.
Schapiro described the COVID-19 pandemic as a time of soul-searching for libraries.
âIn addition to the disruption of our services, it has caused many libraries and their librarians to re-evaluate the core mission, how it is done and how services are delivered,â she said.
One service that was introduced during the pandemic is curbside pickup. By calling 413-527-1031 or emailing [email protected], the library will reserve orders and deliver them curbside. The service has been introduced, so people who do not feel comfortable entering the building during the pandemic will not have to enter. However, Schapiro said the service is something she would like to maintain on a permanent basis.
âThe idea of âânot having to park and unload to get library materials actually works for our community where we don’t have parking,â she said.
One of the items that was highlighted as an area for improvement in the library’s latest strategic plan was compliance with the Americans with Disability Act. Although there is a ramp at the front of the building, there is no elevator in the building and the children’s area is not accessible to people who cannot use the stairs. One option still under consideration is a possible new location.
âWe are interested in providing comprehensive, modern and accessible services to the city and this is something that is not entirely possible in this building. We have done everything possible for the moment, âSchapiro said. âI think in order to be a real community center and to really function, a library has to not only be an idea or a building, but really a place that can provide the real services that people need.â
The search for a new space does not mean that the current library building, which opened to the community in 1881, will not be part of the library, she added.
“We are not giving up on this beautiful space,” she said.
Schapiro learned early on the impact that having access to a dedicated reading space can have on someone. Besides her personally designed Bookworm library, she also attended a library at the Campus School of Smith College. Inside one of the eaves of this library, she recalled a cupboard painted with scenes from CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia book series. Back then, people could sign up to read in space for 20-minute time slots. Much like the wardrobe in the book “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, the space provided an entry into another world for Schapiro.
âIt was my heavenly scene,â she said, clutching her necklace with a cabinet pendant on it with a smile. âI see a lot of love for it as a structure and not just as a home for what the library is. There is a huge nostalgia for this building and I think it is well placed. People see it as an anchor for this city. There is a real deep affection for this space and I can already feel it growing in me, it is not small.
Emily Thurlow can be reached at [email protected]