LANCASTER - Maren Caulfield’s life journey led her to become a children’s librarian ... eventually.
It’s not what Caulfield wanted to be while growing up in Brocton, a small town south of Buffalo, N.Y. She was a fundraiser for a museum prior to leaving the workforce to have her two children, Charlie and Ada, now a second-grader and a kindergartner.
“When my children were younger, we did frequent story times and other children's programming at libraries throughout Massachusetts, and the joy that each library brought us as a family is really what inspired me to go back to school so that I could offer a community the same experience,” Caulfield said.
As it turns out, Lancaster is that community.
Caulfield holds a bachelor's degree in communication from Cornell University and will be graduating in May 2020 with a master's in library and information science from Simmons University.
She previously worked as a circulation assistant and then senior library assistant at Sargent Memorial Library in Boxboro; although not in youth services there, she came to know that’s what she wanted to do.
A Harvard resident who previously lived in Clinton, her parents live in Lancaster.
“Many breakfasts have been enjoyed at Sandee's,” she said.
So when the opportunity came up to be the children’s librarian at Thayer Memorial Library, Caulfield said it “felt like the right fit” with “a lot of growth potential.”
Caulfield hit the ground running. She started in May right before the summer reading program began. Caulfield credits “so many wonderful and supportive staff members, volunteers and patrons who were able to hold my hand a bit and provide all of the answers to my many, many questions” as she quickly settled in to her new job as Miss Maren.
“Existing programming was already suited to the community,” she said, so rather than discontinuing any, she’s added a few more programs -- a storytime for infants and their caregivers, family movie nights, a board game club, a collaboration with Mary Rowlandson Elementary School, and a weaving workshop taught by a retired Lancaster art teacher.
The first major change Caulfield is making has been switching around the placement of the fiction and non-fiction collections.
“The historic children’s room is a beautiful room that lends itself to browsing. Typically, fiction is ‘browsed’ more than nonfiction, which is arranged by topic and is where patrons go to when they are looking for something specific,” she explained. She said she hopes this will “make materials more accessible and easier to discover for the patrons.”
In the future, Caulfield would like to add more programming for teenagers, a more defined young adult space in the stacks, and additional partnerships with community members, including people who may have a special talent they would like to teach. She would also like to “carve out a creative, collaborative makerspace where younger patrons can play around with STEAM materials and crafts” as well as explore various hobbies and activities that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore.
“Working in a community like Lancaster you really have the chance to get to know people and cater their library experience to their needs,” she said.
She said she is inspired by the librarians who helped her when she was a new mother and facilitated connections with other stay-at-home parents.
“Librarians provide such tremendous resources to their communities beyond just providing books to borrow,” Caulfield said. She added she is “awe-struck” by the enthusiasm of her colleagues.
“There is a great, positive energy at the library that fosters an environment of growth and experimentation. Although I'm technically the only staff person in my department, other staff members are more than willing to help out or brainstorm, which is a huge help,” she said.
The library and its programs “are open to anyone who can make it,” she said, not just Lancaster residents, adding “libraries are for everybody and geographical boundaries don't change that.”
She said she is thankful for the opportunity to serve the library community.
“There is nothing more rewarding than having a child come to your storytime and smile big. I've gotten hugs, flowers and an occasional 'I love you' and it all feels wonderful. To know that I can make a difference, even a small one, is so motivating. I want to be able to do whatever I can to make the library a pleasant and inclusive place to be, for all ages,” Caulfield said.
Caulfield is at Thayer Memorial Library Mondays and Wednesdays from 1 to 8 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fridays from noon to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. She can be reached at (978) 368-8928, ext. 5, or email@example.com.