MERIDEN — Melissa Fournier, a library director from Stow, Massachusetts, has been hired as the new director of the public library.
Fournier, 60, who has worked for public and private libraries for about 20 years, most recently was the director of the Randall Public Library in Stow, a town of about 7,000 people 20 miles west of Boston. She will replace Karen Roesler, 68, who is scheduled to retire July 18.
Joan Edgerly, chairwoman of the Library Board of Trustees, said Fournier was “extremely enthusiastic” during the interview process, adding she liked her plans for open transparent communication with the library board, something Roesler has done during her tenure.
“She has a great deal of knowledge and energy and a great skill set that will work well here in Meriden,” City Manager Tim Coon said. Coon, along with Edgerly and Human Resources Director Rob Scalise, interviewed finalists before narrowing the list down to two and allowing the Library Board of Trustees to select the next director.
Fournier graduated from Simmons College with a Master of Library Science degree in 2000. She also received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in illustration and graphics from the Pratt Institute in 1981 and worked for her own graphic design studio, Stockholm Studios, from 1981-1989.
Fournier will start on July 15 and earn $100,000, according to Coon.
City officials will vote later this summer on whether to approve a multi-million dollar renovation and possible expansion of the library. Largely due to the city’s retirement incentive program, the department is also experiencing turnover in 10 positions, Roesler said, which represents more than one-third of the library’s full-time staff of 27.
Roesler, who had a chance to meet Fournier during a round of interviews, said Fournier seems like a “glass half full kind of person” and believes she has the “right attitude” to handle challenges early on.
“I immediately felt great because, philosophically, I feel that we’re in tune,” Roesler said.
Fournier said the possible renovation and expansion of the library excited her about the position in Meriden.
“I am excited about the idea of looking at the design of that building and making it more functional for the entire community,” Fournier said. “There’s a lot of potential there.”
A committee overseeing the proposed renovations is considering three options presented by an architectural firm. All of the options would expand the teen and children’s areas of the library. One option, priced at $9.3 million, would include a 9,000-square-foot addition, while the other options, priced at $7.8 million and $5.3 million, would include renovations but no expansion.
While Fournier said she doesn’t know enough about the options to have a preference, Edgerly said her impression is that Fournier supports expanding programming, which additional space would allow. Edgerly, who supports the $9.3 million option, said a big focus of the interview process was candidates’ vision for a possible renovation.
“Sometimes, building a new library structure is expensive, but once it’s there, you got that for the next 30 years,” Fournier said.
Fournier is also excited to work in a more diverse community and plans to develop programming to meet the various needs of the community. In Stow, Edgerly said she developed programming tailored for bilingual residents, including bilingual book readings.
“That’s the fun part of the job — figuring out what the needs of the community are and figuring out programming to fit that,” she said.
Fournier is originally from Connecticut and got to know the area a little bit while working as an archive intern at Wesleyan University in the late 1990s.
Fournier sees a library’s role in a community as an information and cultural center and communal gathering place. This purpose of connecting people, she said, is increasingly important as social media and technology makes many feel increasingly isolated.
“A lot of people ask, ‘Why build a library when you have the internet at home?’ ” she said. “Well, if that’s the case, why (throw) a party when you have food and music at home.”
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