By Kris Rued-Clark
Lori Belongia came to the Marshfield Public Library in 1987 as a circulation librarian supervisor. Two years later she became adult services librarian supervisor and also served as assistant director for several years before becoming director in 2001.
Reflecting back, Belongia said, “When I came I thought I’d stay maybe five or six years, but the job kept changing. There was always something new, and the field was changing rapidly. There was no reason to leave.”
Asked what has changed the most, Belongia said, “In general, technology, not just for the library but for us as an entire people. The card catalog was a wonderful tool, but now you can search keywords with any piece or element of information and can get results.”
Borrowing materials from other libraries has also become easier. “Before it would take up to three weeks to arrive. Now that we have a statewide delivery system, we can get most material either the next day or certainly the next week,” said Belongia.
With the ease of internet research for everyone, the reference desk fields more challenging questions.
“People come to us to help winnow down the information. We also encourage people to explore for themselves using technology, whether through classes or assistance.”
Library programming has become a more valued and expanded service.
“We always had story time and a summer library program. Now we offer Tuesday Night at the Library for children and families. We have classes — for example, How to Use a Facebook page. The adult winter reading program encourages people to read, explore, and stretch their minds with different genres,” added Belongia. Other programs, from cooking and crafting to home brewing, reflect the interests of the community.
Regarding the new Everett Roehl Marshfield Public Library & Marshfield Community Center, Belongia said, “I never would have dreamed that would be part of my career. The idea came from the community. They told us what they wanted, and they’re going to get it.”
She enjoys sharing the story of “her” library. When her grandchildren come to visit, they say, “We want to go to your library, Grandma.” Belongia thought they meant that she is the director. When she visited her grandchildren in their town, one of them said, “Now you can come to my library,” and Belongia realized that for every person in a community the library is theirs.
“It was about belonging and feeling a sense of ownership. That was such a powerful moment for me. I want everybody here to feel this is their library, to find a part that fits, to feel at home here, to feel welcome here. We’re here for everybody. Your age, income level, education, none of that matters. When you walk in this door, you will find things that suit you.”