BY JOHN E. USALIS

Gwen Barrows knows her way around libraries by education and experience, which made her a great pick as the new library director for the Mahanoy City Public Library.

Barrows, 25, of Schuylkill Haven, started Monday in her new position and is ready to continue the library’s heritage of serving the community for decades. The building was originally constructed by the Knights of Columbus Council 549 as its headquarters and ballroom. The building was purchased by the Mahanoy City Board of Trustees in 1945 and converted into the community library.

“Yesterday was my first full day and a lot of information was thrown at me,” Barrows said Tuesday in Huebner’s Corner, the children’s room named for Mahanoy City native David Huebner, who has been a major financial supporter of the library and served as the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa during the Obama Administration.

Barrows is a 2012 graduate of Schuylkill Haven Area High School, attended Kutztown University to major in library science, and went on to earn her master’s degree in library science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

Barrows worked at the Schuylkill Haven Public Library, and for three years worked as a team librarian at the Strasburg-Heisler Library in Strasburg.

“I volunteered at the Schuylkill Haven library when I was 17 and I loved it,” she said. “It was my favorite thing to do. I loved being there. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life when I was in high school. I was applying for college and my dad and I were going through the majors. When he got to library science, right then and there I decided I wanted to be a librarian. I can do that. So I applied for the library science program and it’s been libraries ever since.”

Barrows interest in books and reading and having contact with the local library as a volunteer eventually led to her career choice.

“When I was a kid, I was a big reader,” she said. “I was the kind of kid who would put a book under the desk when the teacher is trying to teach. I always got them taken away. I was always in the school library. It was always great having a bag of books. So when I started volunteering, I had a good time giving people recommendations and I liked interacting with other library people.”

Barrows enjoyed getting more in-depth experience in the library operations as time went on.

“I really like finding the right materials, such as purchasing them,” she said. “There is an art knowing what your community wants and what your community needs. I also enjoyed having kids come in and tell me about their day.”

As for future plans, Barrows said the Huebner’s Corner will be improved.

ACCESS NEPA
Gwen Barrows, left, new library director of the Mahanoy City Public Library, works with library clerk Leslie Richardson to catalog and prepare new books. Barrows began as the new director Monday.

 

“I’d like to have more children’s material,” Barrows said. “I’d like to have more graphic novels to make it more appealing for the younger crowd because in libraries all of your circulation is in the kids’ stuff. That’s something I really want to do. I’d like to see more programs once we’re allowed to.”

The library began full-time operating hours on Monday:

  • 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Wednesday
  • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday to Friday
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

The library is open for browsing, photocopies, faxing, memorials, etc. Essential computer use is still by appointment. At this time, the library is unable to offer newspapers, magazines, games, toys, or meeting space. Donations of used books or other materials are not accepted.

Masks are required inside the library and social distancing is a must.

The library is located at 17-19 W. Mahanoy St. and can be reached at 570-773-1610.

Contact the writer: jusalis@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6023