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Olney Library welcomes new – and permanent – branch manager –

by Audrey Partington

Special to The Greater Olney News

Ask Jan Baird-Adams what her career goal is and she will tell you has achieved it, referring to her recent appointment as Olney Library’s branch manager.

She is the library’s first permanent branch manager since its post-renovation reopening in March 2013.

“I’ve had my eye on this branch for some time,” said Baird-Adams, who had helped out at Olney Library one day a week last year. “That gave me a feel for the library and the community. As soon as the position became available, I asked to come here.”

Baird-Adams was aware that Olney is “a community of readers,” but she was pleasantly surprised to discover that the area is more diverse than she thought. She also observed first-hand that the branch has “a great, hardworking staff.”

“We have a lot of vacancies at the moment, but we will be working hard to fill them,” she said.

Baird-Adams’ interest in the library profession began in fourth grade when she shadowed the school librarian.

“I came in early and stayed after school to help her,” Baird-Adams recalled. “She was lovely and I enjoyed the work.”

After earning a master’s degree in library science from the University of Maryland, the Baltimore native began her career in the Enoch Pratt Free Library system. She subsequently completed a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Baltimore.

In 1988, after spending two years as an acting branch manager in Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Library system, she was hired by the Montgomery County Public Library system. During the past 31 years, she has managed six of the county’s branch libraries, most recently Germantown Library.

As a working manager, Baird-Adams is on the reference desk an average of several hours per day.

“That’s part of the appeal of being a branch manager,” she said. “I enjoy the human side of the job. I also enjoy problem solving, be it with the public, the staff or the technology.”

Baird-Adams has seen technology change the mission of libraries during her career.

“I think it’s very good that we have moved forward into a new age,” she said. “There is a lot about technology that I love, but being able to keep a balance is important to me. Books are still at the heart of what I love. I came to the profession because of a love of libraries and books.”

Today’s public libraries offer e-books, audio books and books on CDs. Public librarians are often called upon to show customers how to download books to their phones or job hunt using the computer.

“The public library is the best bargain out there,” Baird-Adams said. “You already pay for this stuff with your taxes, so why pay for Kindle or Audible?

To get a better idea of what happens at Olney Library at various times during the week, Baird-Adams works some evening and weekend shifts

“There are times when all of the computers are in use,” she said. “After school, kids are doing homework. Book groups and language conversation clubs meet. The collaboration spaces are always busy, for tutoring, meetings or Skype interviews. The children’s room is also busy. Pre-schoolers attend story-time or are being read to in the by parents or grandparents.”

In keeping with one of County Executive Marc Elrich’s seven priorities – early childhood education – the public library does a lot to prepare children for school.

“Early literacy is paramount,” Baird-Adams. “Reading to your baby is the most important 20 minutes of the day.”

At the same time, the library has to meet the information needs of the entire community, from babies to older adults and everyone in between. That may include library customers who are experiencing homelessness and mental illness.

“Customer service is very important to me, along with valuing diversity,” Baird-Adams said. “We must make sure that the library is a welcoming place for everyone, as long as they can abide by the guidelines for using the library as a shared space.”

When asked about her plans to make changes to Olney Library’s facilities, services, or collections, Baird-Adams is clear.

“I did not come to fix the branch,” she said. “It’s in very good shape. The building is relatively new. I think we have a very good collection, which is well-maintained. The community loves its library and demonstrates it by coming in and checking out materials.”

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