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Athenaeum’s digital services sees ‘explosive’ growth

WESTFIELD-Gretchen Hohmeyer is on a “journey” in a newly created position at the Westfield Athenaeum – and she hopes area residents join her as she continues her exploration of the digital landscape.

“The Digital Services Librarian is a new position for the Westfield Athenaeum, which I assumed over the summer,” said Hohmeyer, who previously served as a children’s librarian, organizing children and teen programs and purchasing books for the Children’s Library.

Gretchen Hohmeyer is the Westfield Athenaeum’s digital services librarian. (ERICA LEFEBVRE PHOTO)

Her new role is to spearhead digital services for patrons, ranging from the Live Lunchtime Librarian program on Facebook every Monday at 12:30, to creating videos for the Athenaeum’s website and social media platforms.

Hohmeyer also films and edits a variety of Athenaeum programs, including story time videos, the History Chats with Dr. Bob Brown series, and the Good Book Hunting discussions.

“I am also responsible for creating and posting almost everything that goes out on our social media,” said Hohmeyer, adding, “If you post a question on a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter post or message us over those services, it’s probably me you reach.”

In essence, Hohmeyer manages a large portion of the Athenaeum’s digital presence and the translation of the formerly in-person services to a digital platform.

“Even once COVID begins to dissipate, my job will continue to reach out to patrons via the internet to offer services and programs for those who we might not otherwise be able to serve,” she said.

Hohmeyer explained that when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last spring, the Athenaeum team brainstormed ways to offer patrons services and assistance.

“The effort was a total team effort,” she said. “As we began to figure out how we would operate without being in the building or being able to let people into the building, it became clear that someone would be needed to moderate the social media consistently and help take a lead in other areas, and I felt incredibly passionate about it.”

Having taken the digital reins in other career capacities over the years, Hohmeyer felt comfortable with the shift.

“I also loved the ability to get creative in ways that were entirely new,” she said. “I wanted to reach out to our patrons in as many ways as possible, and I am so thankful that the rest of the staff here were just as excited to go along on the journey with me.”

Area residents are welcome to call the main library line and ask to be connected with Hohmeyer, however, she said the fastest way to reach her is through her email address – [email protected], or through one of the social media platforms.

In the recent past, the Athenaeum’s digital services were limited to social media, which mostly shared ongoing events or photos of moments within the library, according to Hohmeyer.

“Our focus on it over the last year has been nothing less than explosive,” she said. “For my part, there has been a shift from trying to create as many programs and services as possible to see what people needed to feeling more grounded and connected to our patrons, the community, and everyone’s needs.”

Hohmeyer noted the programs themselves used to be disconnected from each other, but now are more crafted to build off each other in meaningful ways.

“While, of course, we miss connecting with our patrons in person, I have found so many unique ways to connect across the digital world and I have so enjoyed getting to know folks in this way,” she said.

While much of what Athenaeum staff members do involves connecting people to books or other resources, the essence of the Athenaeum is to focus on the community and the idea of creating community.

“The entire staff here is devoted to helping our patrons to get what they need, but also providing spaces in which we can all enjoy each other’s company when we might be feeling more disconnected than ever,” said Hohmeyer, adding that programs focus on a range of areas from literature, cooking and games to art.

“We also find that, sometimes, people call us up asking for books but end up chatting with us about life,” she said. “The Westfield Athenaeum is not just a book hub, but also a community hub.”

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