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 Marketing & Communications with Kellie Ruccolo!
What is your position at the library?
I joined the library in February 2022 as the Program and Events Coordinator! I work on the Communications team to create and schedule programs and events at the library. This can range from hosting award-winning authors who draw large crowds, to smaller programs such as a grant writing workshop which we’ve held in recent weeks.
When I first started the library was hosting events exclusively online because of the pandemic, but over the course of my six months here I have seen the transition back to in-person events. It’s really exciting to be able to invite the community back into the library!
Can you tell us more about the library’s programs and events over the past year?
Despite the ongoing pandemic, the library (with careful planning from the Communications team) hosted a number of events that have drawn large crowds. In March 2022 we hosted the latest installment of the library’s Our Path Forward series, which encourages education and dialogue around democracy. This event featured Barbara F. Walters, author of How Civil Wars Start, in conversation with Erica Chenoweth. [Editor's note: this event was dedicated in memory of Janet Axelrod, Chair of the Library’s Board of Trustees for over 20 years and beloved Library Foundation Board Member, who passed away in December 2021.] The Zoom event was extremely well attended. We also hosted a Zoom event with Louise Erdrich, the author of The Sentence, which promoted a lot of conversation and audience engagement and had 200 attendees!
As we moved to in-person events in May, the library hosted Katie Kitamura, Malinda Lo, and Homeira Qaderi. I have loved every author and poetry event, but Homeria Qaderi’s reading was particularly memorable. Homeria was joined by a translator - she read excerpts of her book, Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother’s Letter to Her Son, in her native language which was then translated from Persian to English. Patrons were able to interact with Homeira by asking questions in both Persian and English. It was a really powerful event.
When the library hosts author events, we like to have the author in conversation with another person; this helps with the flow of the event, and the moderator is able to field questions from the audience. We try to be very intentional about our pairings between the moderator and the authors - either they have similar backgrounds, common themes in their work, or sometimes they even know each other personally. When we hosted Katie Kitamura she was joined by her friend Meghan O’Rourke. We’ve also had authors who connected so well with their moderator that they became friends after the event!
On July 14th the library kicked off its Park Sounds series, featuring DJ Johnny Stevents from Soulelujah. The library will be hosting two more Park Sounds events outside the library in Joan Lorentz Park in August and one in September. Park Sounds is an opportunity to invite local performers to share their musical talents with the Cambridge community.
The library has also held a number of smaller events like the grant writing workshop I mentioned, a presentation on March Madness, a class on how to be a plant parent and more! In May, we hosted a number of lectures in celebration of Haitian Flag Day that were presented by Dr. Régine Michelle Jean-Charles, Dr. Jean Eddy Saint Paul, and former Cambridge Poet Populist Jean Dany Joachim. They spoke about the history of the Haitian Flag and the importance of women authors, artists, and activists in Haiti. It was a wonderful and educational celebration.
Could you tell us about the process of reaching out to authors?
Sure! There are two main ways we go about identifying a potential author. Sometimes the Communications team researches authors and we make a list of authors we’d like to invite. Other times we get recommendations from patrons or library staff. Once we have identified an author, we reach out to them through their website and connect with either their agent or the author themselves. We work with their team to see what dates and times they are available. A lot of work goes into preparing for these events, and it is so rewarding to meet these authors and introduce them to the audience.
What programs and events can we look forward to at the library?
There are a number of exciting events and programs at the library in the coming months! As I mentioned, there are two more Park Sounds at the end of the summer. We are also holding a Drawing in the Park class in Joan Lorentz Park in August. This is an opportunity for patrons to join an artist in drawing trees in the park.
In the fall, the library is celebrating Latinx Heritage Month, Indigenous People's Day, and Native Heritage Month. In September and December we are holding a Sacred Songs and Rituals musical series with two incredible performers. The September event includes Yacouba, who plays the kora, a sacred instrument native to West Africa. Then in December, musician Sara Aroeste will be performing music with both Spanish and Jewish roots. The intention of Sacred Songs and Rituals is to highlight the positive impact and solace people found in music during the height of the pandemic.
How has the community participated in these programs? What feedback are you hearing from patrons?
The community loves free library events, and we always have excellent patron turnout! One event that stands out to me is when we hosted author Malinda Lo. Malinda lives in Cambridge so attendees were excited to hear one of their community members speak. One mother told us that her daughter was eager to attend the event because she is a huge fan of Malinda’s book Last Night at the Telegraph Club. We love hearing feedback like this, especially when we are able to provide opportunities for young readers to engage with their author heroes!
We have seen a lot of patrons actively participating in Q&As, and many patrons like to stay after the programs when there are book signings. A lot of the feedback we receive is patrons saying they are happy to see the authors they know. It is so rewarding to hear their positive feedback - it motivates us to plan more events!
The best part about library events - whether they have large audiences or are more intimate - is that they foster a sense of community. The Communications team does our best to be intentional about the range of events and programs we are offering because we want to appeal to a variety of interests and attract as many patrons as possible! We do this through inviting a diverse range of authors and poets, and offering a number of different workshops to people of all ages and interests.
What do you enjoy most about working at the library?
Every day at the library is different and I never know what to expect. Some days I have visits from patrons, or I am working with different stakeholders and performers, or researching authors for an event. I get to meet a lot of people, which is an exciting element of this job!
For example, when organizing the Park Sounds series, I coordinated with a number of people and departments. I’ve worked with City officials, parking enforcement officers, vendors, performers, and obtained permits. There are a lot of pieces that go into events, and it is so rewarding to see the final product. We hope you are able to attend a library program or event (or multiple events!) in the future!
What’s your favorite book?
I like to read romance, like an easy beach read. Right now I love all of Emily Henry’s books, she even has a book called Beach Read! My favorite of hers is Book Lovers because there is a lot of banter. Her books are fast paced and easy to read through, there’s also a lot of quick wit.
You can visit the library’s calendar to learn more about upcoming programs and events here.
Contributions from the Library Foundation’s generous donors support programs and events, such as the authors series, at the library. If you would like to support the Cambridge Public Library, please reach out to Library Foundation Director, Katie Welch, at firstname.lastname@example.org or make a donation through our secure online portal here.
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.