By Todd Travis
Meant to be
A library is one of the foundational pillars of a community. It’s where people go for help, for social interaction, for leisure, for entertainment, and for a host of other reasons that vary by each individual. In Avon, no one understands that better than the Director, Laurel Setser, who has been serving the Avon community tirelessly for more than thirty years now.
It’s hard to imagine now, but before becoming the director of the library, Setser remembers when the job was actually offered to someone else.
“I do vividly remember, I was second choice. There were two of us who both applied for the position, and the other woman was finishing her masters degree, and the position was offered to her. I was very disappointed. Within about two months of her taking the position, she joined the peace corps.” Setser recalled.
This year, Setser celebrates her 30th year as the Director of the Avon library. Even though she remembers a time where it seemed to be someone else’s fate, it is clear she was the right choice the whole time.
Growing and changing
Leading the community into the technological age was one of the first, and ongoing projects Setser was tasked with. Libraries were upgrading to computer-based library catalogs, and after careful research, the team was ready to implement this system in Avon. Transitioning the old card system into a digital system would make things exponentially more effective, but there was a learning curve for everyone.
“When I looked back at how we were doing things, it was so different. We were excited when we got a typewriter that had memory. Then we had IBM donate a computer to the library, and none of us knew how to use it,” Setser laughed.
As time went on, people embraced the technology that was being introduced. As a result, the library was able to get more organized and provide more resources for patrons than ever before. Today, they are on their second new system which continues to bring new innovation to what the library can provide. With these technological advances also came tremendous growth. Along with that growth came the responsibility of creating infrastructure to support it.
Being creative when facing obstacles
When the Avon library was first built, one of the comments from people was “why are you building that library out in the middle of no where?” That almost sounds like a joke today, as the library has not only expanded, but it is in the heart of a booming community. One of the board members even quit when they decided to go through with the building location. With a little coaxing, he ended up rejoining the board, and actually approached Setser years later when the library did a groundbreaking ceremony for the new addition to the library. He told Setser about how he had been against the building, but commented “boy was I wrong!”
The growth the library experienced didn’t come without any setbacks. Around 2013, a tax cap was introduced which drastically decreased the income the library was receiving.
“They called it the ‘circuit breaker.’ It capped what people could be taxed on their property, and in turn cut off much of the income we were receiving at the time. Because we had been small so long, and then we got huge, we didn’t have some of the reserves that some of the more established libraries had been able to accrue over time. So we had to really be creative with how we structured our budget,” Setser explained.
Still, the library continued to grow and improve and hire top quality staff as the years went on. Technology has continued to improve and Setser has been forward-thinking in the way she has incorporated the technology that has been the most beneficial to the library and its patrons. People still love books and articles and magazines, but they are also wanting to have digital formats available as well. She wants to have staff available for in-person checkouts, because for some that may be the only interaction they have that day. But They also offer electronic checkouts for those who prefer that.
“I think the biggest thing we’ve always had here is that it is kind of like a family. We all want what’s best for everyone else and for the community. So that helps with the transitions come. The biggest thing this organization ever did was when they chose to build a building,” Setser stated.
Coming September 30, Setser and the Avon Library will be celebrating Avon’s history and showcasing the skills and crafts that some of the earlier members, even before it might have been called “Avon” would practice. It will be a family fun event with food, entertainment, and education. For more info visit: https://avonlibrary.assabetinteractive.com/calendar/celebrating-avon-2023/