(Posted Nov. 12, 2020)
By Theresa Hennis, Staff Writer
With COVID-19, many things we love and might have taken for granted have changed or even disappeared—restaurants, entertainment venues and more. One service that has endured–finding ways to stay relevant to the community–is the public library.
Chris Siscoe, the new director of Hurt-Battelle Memorial Library in West Jefferson, is happy to say the future of libraries is looking good–both in the short-term and the long-term.
COVID-19 has presented challenges no one could have expected, but Siscoe has confidence in people’s ability to adapt.
“We’re not seeing a drop-off in patronage,” he said. “We’re just seeing people use the libraries differently.”
Library staff members have helped to make that happen with innovative ways to continue delivering programs and services. Siscoe saw such creativity at work in his previous position as director of Mount Sterling Public Library, and he is seeing the same in West Jefferson. Solutions like curbside pickup and virtual storytimes have allowed patrons to stay connected to an institution with deep roots.
“I treat the library as a legacy,” Siscoe said. “I see myself as a caretaker. We have four libraries in Madison County that are over a hundred years old.”
He said he is ready for the challenge of honoring the traditions of the community library, meeting the challenges of the current times head-on, and engaging upcoming generations.
“We want to meet the needs of our users by keeping the library relevant,” he said. “We have good employees here who I look forward to working with. They are the ones who come up with innovative ideas, and one of my jobs as director is to help implement their ideas.”
Siscoe became director of Hurt-Battelle Memorial Library on Nov. 1. In addition to his nearly eight years at Mount Sterling Public Library, he also worked for the Dayton Metro and Washington Court House library systems.
As for why he made the move to Hurt-Battelle, he said he was motivated by a desire to expand his horizons and take on the challenge of directing a larger library.
Siscoe replaces Tara McClaskie who had worked for the library for more than 10 years.
“Tara worked side-by-side with us,” said Cassandra Smith, Hurt-Battelle’s youth services coordinator. “She was a very calming presence and very detail oriented.”
Regarding Siscoe, Smith said the staff appreciates his passion for preserving the library’s legacy.
“Our library has always been dedicated and committed to our patrons, and Chris wants to continue that legacy,” Smith said.
Pat Baynes, president of the Mount Sterling Public Library board, said the library received a great deal of interest in the open director position. Interviews are underway, and the board hopes to have a new director in place by the end of the year.
“Chris has done such a wonderful job with our library. I think the people looking at the job will be impressed with how many things we do and how far we reach,” Baynes said.
Sharon Morgan, previously Mount Sterling Public Library’s assistant director, is serving as interim director.