It's no secret: we love the Cambridge Public Library staff! From circulation to admin, facilities to adult and youth services - the enthusiasm, warmth, and dedication of the library’s team makes Cambridge an amazing place to live, learn and explore.
The Cambridge Public Library Foundation is taking you on a virtual tour of the library and introducing some of the library’s superstar staff. Our next stop is Adult Services with Diana Fendler and Janet Borron, focused on the library’s services for seniors.
Diana Fendler is the library’s Manager of Adult Services, and oversees a team of 20 staff members who provide services to all patrons, but are primarily geared towards helping adults and seniors. Diana’s incredible team provides information services, book recommendations, basic technology assistance, program facilitation and more.
Janet Borron is the library’s Senior Services Librarian, and has been part of the library’s Adult Services team for more than seven years. In her role, Janet coordinates monthly curated home delivery of library materials to Cambridge residents who are unable to visit the library and establishes partnerships with local area assisted living facilities and the city’s senior center. Her expertise and knowledge about the library and community is unparalleled.
Diana, please tell us about Janet’s role in the community, specifically bringing library resources to seniors where they are.
Sometimes described as a “human book mobile,” Janet provides home delivery of an average of 600 items to more than 50 Cambridge residents every month. She also does monthly outreach visits to community partners in order to showcase the library’s vast collection, highlight popular books, and promote library resources and programs.
Can you tell us more about the library’s senior programming and what’s currently available to seniors.
Back in 2017, the library received funding through the Library Foundation to begin a Creative Aging series for older adults. These eight-week long courses provided instruction in various written and performing arts, including dance and storytelling. The workshops were taught by professional teaching artists, and offered participants the opportunity to explore new skills which bolstered self-confidence and created an avenue for lasting social connections between participants.
We had to pause the Creative Aging series due to the pandemic, but we look forward to restarting this program in the near future! If you’d like to be notified when Creative Aging gets restarted, you can sign up for the Director’s Weekly Message or the Events & Programs newsletter. You can learn more here.
Currently, there are two virtual program series being offered for older adult patrons. The first is a weekly Wellness Exercise Program. Each month we offer different themes such as Zumba Gold, Low Impact Fitness, and Let Your Yoga Dance. Our second series is the Active Older Adult Lecture and Workshop Series. The library launched this series with 10 workshops centered around the topic of “Navigating Solo” and “Tools for Creating Your Plan for Aging Well.” The ten virtual workshops are offered every other Thursday from February through June and you can learn more and sign up here.
How is the library’s programming for seniors being received in the community?
We can tell how popular these programs are from the number of attendees and from the feedback that we get from participants. The weekly Wellness Exercise Program consistently has over 40 participants who are engaged, interacting with each other since there are a lot of “regulars” and it’s clear they’re having fun during the program. At the end of every class, the Zoom chat fills up with words of praise and thanks.
As for the library’s Active Older Adult Lecture and Workshop Series, we are halfway through the ten workshops, and it has been incredibly well received and well attended! On average there are over 100 participants in each session. Many participants share their gratitude with comments submitted in the chat. Here are a few from our very first session:
Can't begin to say how appropriate this is for me and my brother.
This is so timely; I have just written my will.
This has been tremendous; this is so so important.
I really like this. It came out at a perfect time.
Thank you for this program and guidance.
This is terrific, a marvelous offering.
What programming, specifically for seniors, is coming up at the Library?
We are cautiously optimistic about bringing back the Creative Aging series in-person, and there are a few currently being planned for late summer and fall. The Wellness Exercise Program ends soon, in late May, and we hope to offer it again in the fall potentially in a hybrid (virtual and in-person) format. As for the Active Older Adult Lecture and Workshop Series, we have been doing early planning with potential author speakers on the topics of nutrition, health and happiness relating to aging. There’s more to come!
Thanks Diana! Is there anything else you’d like to share?
It’s wonderful to be able to share a glimpse of our work and to highlight the importance of services and programs for older adult patrons. People often feel isolated as they age, and it’s been wonderful to have resources from the Library Foundation to break down some of the natural barriers. We are grateful for the support, and we love being a part of the Cambridge community.
Janet, can you tell us about your position at the library?
I’m officially the Cambridge Public Library’s Staff Librarian for Senior Services. My position focuses on outreach services to the aging populations in Cambridge and to those members of the community who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to leave their home. These outreach services include personalizing book selections and coordinating deliveries with our Support Services staff, going to the senior center to run book groups, and bringing programs and services to these important populations.
What do you enjoy most about working at the library?
There’s a concept called “the third space” – which refers to society’s communal space, or a space that isn’t a person’s home or workplace. From the moment I encountered this concept it resonated with me because a public library is the quintessential “third space” and answers why I love working here so much- there’s no barrier to entry and it’s a place where people can come together and let life happen!
What’s your favorite book?
I don’t play favorites. My reading tastes vary as frequently as the New England weather. I am currently reading American Made: What Happens to People When Work Disappears by Farah Stockman. The author is a Pulitzer Prize winner and Cambridge native. The book looks at the impact of a plant closure on the workers employed in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Senior Center book club selection for this month is On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, an examination of loss, immigration and addiction among other societal issues.
It's no secret: we love the Cambridge Public Library staff! From circulation to admin, facilities to youth services - the enthusiasm, warmth, and dedication of the library’s team makes Cambridge an amazing place to live, learn and explore.
The Cambridge Public Library Foundation is taking you on a virtual tour of the library and introducing some of the library’s superstar staff. Our next stop is the Central Square Branch.
This week we’re excited to introduce you to Philecia Harris! Philecia works in the Central Square Branch and oversees the six branches in the Cambridge Public Library system. Philecia loves each branch for their unique programs and tight knit communities, and has nothing but praise for branch librarians who go above and beyond to forge meaningful relationships with patrons.
What’s your role at the library?
I recently joined the Cambridge Public Library as the Manager of the Central Square Branch and the Manager of Branch Services. I worked as the interim Branch Manager for the Central Square Branch about 25 years ago, so things are coming full circle! I used to live a ten-minute walk from Central Square when I was growing up. It is nice to be back in my old neighborhood and to see old familiar faces at the library.
My background includes being a children’s librarian, a library media specialist, a Library Directory and entrepreneur. I was the Director of Library Media Services for public schools in Washington D.C. and owned and operated Coffy Café in D.C for five years!
Could you please tell me more about your role?
I do a lot! My role as Manager of the Central Square Branch involves programming, outreach, hiring, overseeing a tech and literacy center and more. As the Manager of Branch Services, I work with an Assistant Manager to oversee the same activities and take on goals and policy work as well.
What do you love about the Central Square Branch? What makes it unique?
Central Square is the largest branch in the Cambridge Public Library system [editor note: other than the Main Library!] and it is busy. This location has always been a gateway for new immigrants and has been newly dubbed the Art Corridor. Central Square Branch serves university students, businesspeople, children, elderly, the unhoused and longtime residents. People come to the Central Square branch to learn new skills, practice their English, write resumes and look-up which shelters have openings. You are assisting people acquiring vital skills or filling out important documents so you really get to know them and start to develop real connections with them. The development of rich relationships with our community is one of the reasons that staff members love working here. We are truly a neighborhood library.
Are there any exciting programs that are unique to Central Square?
In addition to the Main Library, Central Square is the only branch with a Tech Center and our computers get a lot of use. Barely forty percent of African Americans have broad band internet, elders often need tech assistance and many, many people without home own technology find themselves forced to fill-out paperwork online. The Tech Center closed during the pandemic and will reopen when the branch is fully staffed. We currently have computers and take-home laptops available, but people are excited about the tech center reopening.
We host the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. event at the Central Square Branch. January of 2022 we held an amazing virtual program for the 47th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day lecture with Clint Smith, author of the New York Times best-seller, How the World Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America. It was a powerful, well attended event. We’re currently developing an emerging Black Voices collection that’s starting in the new fiscal year (July 2022) and will encompass black literature, arts, history, Black Lives Matter and the African diaspora in general.
Another big program at the Central Square Branch is the Cambridge Youth Poetry Contest. On April 30th we closed the submission for our 23rd Annual Youth Poetry Contest for K-8 students who live or attend school in Cambridge. We got over 1,000 submissions this year! Poems will be judged for interesting content and creativity as well as consistent and imaginative style. This year there will be an extra prize for winning poems about trees. Winners will be notified in early May, and prizes will be awarded at a ceremony and reading on Thursday, May 26, at 6 p.m. This is my first year working at the library during the poetry contest and I am so excited to read the poems!
The Central Square Branch also does an “On the Wall Gallery,” which is a way for local artists to display their work. Applications are accepted up to 12 months in advance and priority is given to Cambridge residents. In the past we’ve had all kinds of two-dimensional work, including paintings, drawings, photographs, tapestries, fabric art, needle arts, etc. If you’re interested in showing your work, please come to the Central Square Library or call (617) 349-4010.
Why do you like working at the library?
For me, being a librarian is an identity. Whether or I’m at work, I’m connecting people to resources, finding and giving books to kids and helping people or community centers create their own libraries. It is a very fulfilling profession, you are able to watch people grow and discover new things—It allows you to feel like you are making a difference.
Being a children’s librarian is my first love! Sometimes you come across a child that says they don’t like to read. I love the special challenge of getting an “oooh, oooh, I want this book!” It's great when you can show them that it's not that they don’t like to read, it's just that they haven’t found the right book yet.
The public library is the number one way for people without internet access at home to have access to the internet and computers. We’re thinking about digital equity a lot here in the City of Cambridge, so having open access to computers is important for all members of the community.
What's your favorite book?
Oh… my all-time favorite children’s book recently changed. It was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis. But now it's the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman. It is an amazingly imaginative trio of books with many dimensions and concepts. I am someone who only read the first book of a series because I love the new unique concepts, characters, worlds and ideas. The second book always loses its mystery. That being said, the first book in His Dark Materials hooked me and I had to read the whole series. It’s a lot like the Harry Potter series in terms of imagination and then amazing on many other levels.
My new favorite book for adults is The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. It’s one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I think one of the things I love about Branch Services is that each community in Cambridge is unique and the branches reflect that. Cambridge is also special in that the libraries are so accessible - there is a main library and six library branches in a city that is only two by three miles! That means every community has a library that is within walking distance.
I also want patrons to know that the library is here for you. The librarians at each branch are eager to answer your questions, help you find materials, and forge relationships.
The Cambridge Public Library Foundation is dedicated to supporting the Cambridge Public Library and its programs that educate, inspire and respond to the needs of our diverse community.