NK Free Library reflects on its past and finds its future in Brennan | News

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NORTH KINGSTOWN, RI – Returning to the North Kingstown Free Library as the new director, Ryan Brennan has come full circle.

His first day in his new role was just over a week ago, and he succeeds interim manager Susan Aylward.

Brennan, 34, is the library’s 11th director, but he’s no stranger to North Kingstown.

“(Aylward) actually hired me in 2010 for my first library job, as a library intern,” he said. He was 22 and graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a master’s degree in library and information science.

Originally from Coventry, Brennan majored in history while a student at Rhode Island College, with the goal of becoming a university librarian.

“We went to a class given by a librarian on how to do research, how to cite your sources, that sort of thing,” he said. “That’s when I started to think that this could really be a career for me.”

He also interned at the time at the McKillop Library at Salve Regina University. So Brennan was getting a taste – and learning the ropes – of how librarians worked both in an academic setting and in a public institution. He had a decision to make.

“Helping different parts of the community instead of just helping students write research papers kinda appealed to me,” he said. He quickly turned to public libraries.

This brought him to Casper, Wyoming, nicknamed “The Oil City,” a population of around 55,000 at the time. He became the Reference Librarian at the Natrona County Library.

“I was young at the time and quite open to checking out anywhere,” he said. “It was a great experience.”

He stayed for two years and then moved to Gillette, Wyoming, another oil boom town, as the head of the referral department.

“It really gave me a good opportunity to become a supervisor very early on,” he said. “There were good opportunities, I met some great people with whom I am still in contact.

But Brennan said he definitely has New England in his blood and is excited to be back.

His next stop was Nashua, New Hampshire, where he was Emerging Technology Librarian. His family brought him back, and the closest job he could find at the time was in New Hampshire.

“Basically, I managed all of their non-traditional technologies,” he said. This included iPads, cameras, Chromeboxes, and possible technology for the future.

“And all of our electronic resources – our website, that sort of thing,” he said.

He first returned to the North Kingstown Free Library as Deputy Director, in 2016 and 2017. From there he traveled to Brookline, Massachusetts. He ran the Coolidge Corner branch there.

“Brookline is surrounded by Boston on three sides and we are the closest library to the BU (Boston University), so we were the busiest library branch in Massachusetts. Just a really busy place.

From Massachusetts he returned to Rhode Island, to become director of the Rogers Free Library in Bristol. He had been there for a year and had not looked for a new job opportunity. Instead, the opportunity presented itself to his search.

North Kingstown Free Library Board Chair Elizabeth Suvari has contacted Brennan to advise Brennan of the vacancy of the Director position. Suvari had known him from his previous stint as Deputy Director.

“I applied, went through the interview process and here we are,” he said. He plans to leave Bristol to possibly move closer to his new post, he said.

Among his plans for the library, which employs 20 people, is to continue some of the online offerings that became popular at so many libraries at the start of the COVID pandemic. Programs such as virtual story times, YouTube videos and take-home crafts for kids could continue, if there is demand from the community. Partnering with other city agencies and local businesses would also be a priority, he said.

“We’re going to continue to do as much outreach as possible, but not just virtually,” Brennan said. “As we have more and more events, like the art festival, to be able to go there and be a little more in the community.”

The library draws on funding from a number of sources, including local, federal and state funds and grants to bridge the “digital divide.” Brennan said he was ready to seek more funding where needed.

“I know we broadcast Wi-Fi hotspots here,” Brennan said. “This is an opportunity for people who may not be able to afford Internet at home to still be able to access it. “

The state library office, he said, was helpful, and he also cited the Champlain Foundations as a major benefactor.

“There is currently a grant here to do a facade renovation – carpet, paint, window treatments, that sort of thing,” he said. “There is definitely money to be had.”

Brennan said the library has a lot of programs, such as the important summer reading series for kids.

“We have different presenters, let’s try to have something different for the kids every week, so that they don’t back down when they’re not in school,” he said.

He also praised the Friends of the Library, the group of volunteers who organize big book sales and play a key role in the library community.

“Book sales are always very popular,” he said. “We do a ton of lectures, movies, book talks, cookbook clubs, all kinds of stuff. There is something for everyone.


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