Borchers leaves behind a strong library legacy

 

Margaret Borchers walked out of Edith Wheeler Memorial Library last Friday, her last as director of a place she has come to know as home for the past 16 years.

While she leaves with a heavy heart, Borchers does so knowing that she leaves the library in good hands — her longtime adult services librarian, Lorna Rhyins, assumed director duties Monday — and a strong base on which to grow further in the coming months and years.

“It’s bittersweet for me to go, but I have other things I want to do,” said Borchers. “It is hard to leave here. The people in Monroe are very friendly, caring people. I developed a lot of friendships here. The staff is wonderful. We accomplished our goals, the library’s running smoothly. I’m leaving everything in good hands.”

Borchers joined Edith Wheeler Memorial Library in 2002 as the children’s librarian and was promoted to director in 2008.

“Through her hard work, perseverance and collaboration with the library board and staff, she has provided our community with an exceptional library, offering modern services and outstanding programming,” said First Selectman Ken Kellogg. “I am grateful for her service and leadership over the past 16 years and wish her all the best in a well-earned retirement.”

Borchers’ stay in Monroe was the culmination of years of her love of books, starting in her youth when she became an avid comic book reader. That love of books translated into a part-time job at the Ansonia library while in high school and ultimately a college degree in library science.

After graduating from college, she said, she was unable to find work in the profession. It was years later, after her son entered kindergarten, that she returned to the world of books, joining the Derby library on a part-time basis.

“It was perfect. … I got to work while in he was in school. Gradually I took on more hours until I was offered full-time work as the assistant director,” said Borchers. “I liked it there, but I needed benefits. That’s when I moved on to Monroe. My career in libraries came later, but it was always there.”

Borchers joined Monroe’s library as head of the children’s room, back in the day when the library was located in the Town Hall wing where the land use office now sits. That cramped area, Borchers said, did not stop her from developing popular programs — including story time and summer reading on the Monroe green.

“When I came here, there was a very robust, well-run program already. I just took it over,” said Borchers. “When I came here, we just did more programs, more reading.”

Since her start in Monroe, Borchers helped usher in the new facility at what is now Edith Wheeler Memorial Library, moving to the director post and helping lead an explosion of adult, teen and child programming, covering all interests in the community.

“We have 20,000 people in Monroe, but only half have library cards,” saud Borchers. “We have to change, or we’re not going make it. … Institutions that don’t change don’t survive. Now people really use libraries for the programs. People come in here to use the building, use it as a quiet space to work or meet someone. There’s a lot of interaction here.”

Borchers said the role of the public library has not changed in the 21st Century — it is still the information center of the community.

“What has changed is our delivery methods,” said Borchers. “Traditionally, access to library materials was only available during a library’s operating hours. Patrons would enter the building and then leave with a book or the information they needed in a physical form.

“Now information is available electronically 24 hours a day and seven days a week using online databases, access to the library catalog and reference email services, just to name a few. The library event calendar is available online, as is the ability to register for a program,” said Borchers. “The library today is everywhere and has no barriers, it invites participation and has flexible systems to connect patrons to the information they need.”

She said that libraries are community centers where people come to meet their neighbors, get help and learn new skills.
“Library staff will make access to information easier and more productive,” said Borchers. “Libraries, after all, help people and librarians love doing that. Librarians are technology leaders and educators, and we must become public relations experts. Getting the word out about the great work libraries and librarians do is the challenge.”

Borchers leaves as the library’s strategic plan — creation of a “maker space” with a sewing machine and a 3D printer, among other hands-on learning items, a cafe, and a reworked teen space — begins to come to fruition.

“This is an exciting time for Edith Wheeler Memorial Library,” said Borchers, “but this staff is ready. The community will love what happens here, and the library will continue to grow. I will miss it here, but it is time to move on.”

 

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