After losing its director, Pine Plains Library perseveres

The Pine Plains Free Library is housed on the main floor and has use of some basement rooms. An open upstairs floor is the town Community Center.

Photo By Anna Martucci

After losing its director, Pine Plains Library perseveres

PINE PLAINS — After a successful two years, Pine Plains Free Library director Alexis Tackett is stepping down in order to pursue opportunities closer to her family home in Texas.

Most notably, she worked with the library board to advocate for a more sustainable budget from the Town, work that resulted in voters approving a nearly $67,000 increase in annual funding.

“Alexis is leaving, and it’s devastating and everyone will miss her, but she left the library in a good place,” said library board president Claire Gunning. This will be the first year that the library is not actively using its reserve money to pay the bills.

However, Gunning said, it remains a challenge to be a public library located in a small, rural community. Fundraising can be difficult due to the small population of the town and because other organizations such as The Stissing Center and the fire department compete for donations.

For similar reasons, the library also struggled to fill a vacant board seat until recently, when it was filled by a library volunteer.

“Pine Plains is a very small town, and the same people are tapped for boards everywhere,” Gunning explained.

Another challenge the library faces is the building itself. The library is housed on the main floor and also has use of a few rooms in the basement for storage. The upstairs floor is the town Community Center, so if the library needs it for its purposes, it must make arrangements through the Town.

There aren’t any small rooms that people can use for break-out sessions, and the children’s space overflows into the checkout area.

“The building is a town building and we have a long-term lease that’s very generous, but the building is not conducive to all our needs,” Gunning explained. “Long long range, we would love to have a new building, but I don’t know if there is even a place on the horizon that we can find.”

Gunning is hopeful that with the influx of newcomers to the town and its environs, more people will be interested in supporting the library.

Gunning herself moved to Pine Plains full-time with her husband, who grew up here, in 2022 after retiring from her library position in New York City. Shortly after, she was asked to join the board of the Pine Plains Library, and when former board president Beth McLiverty finished out her term, Gunning was nominated to take over.

Currently the library board has seven members, with bylaws that allow for up to 12.

“The board has a really interesting skill set,” said Gunning. “We have someone who worked for a nonprofit in New Hampshire and has an HR background, a lawyer, someone with a fundraising background — it’s a great group of people who are really working for the same goal. Some of the other libraries that are bigger than ours have larger boards with subcommittees, but we are the kind of board where everyone who wants to have a say in what is happening can have a say.”

The most pressing matter is the search for a new director, although Tackett is still working part-time doing some of the administrative tasks from afar. The plan is for her to continue to stay on in this capacity and facilitate the transition of the new director.

“A library isn’t just about books, it’s about community and creating a space for people to gather,” said Gunning. “The board supports the work of the librarian, and we are anxious and eager to find someone to take on an interesting role in a small town.”

Located in a town without many cafes, or centralized locations for gathering, the library is a place where books, Wi-Fi and computers are available for anyone who needs them. The library also provides a weekly tech support session, ESL classes, a monthly cookbook group potluck, and a weekly youth writers’ workshop.

“There are lots of people in Pine Plains who need services but won’t necessarily ask for them,” said Gunning. “But they get to know people at the library. Some of the staff have been there a long time.”

The staff and the board are hoping to continue to expand the library’s programming, ideas for which include a Mahjong club, pickleball, yoga, lecturers and author visits.

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