Westfield Athenaeum hires new director

WESTFIELD – As a youngster, Dan Paquette loved reading comic books, tales of adventure, and science fiction fantasy. He readily admits he resisted reading the classics.
“I’ve always had a love for stories and where they lead you,” he said.
In his new role as the director of the Westfield Athenaeum, he is surrounded by those classics and thousands of other books – and he couldn’t be happier.
“The Athenaeum is an enjoyable place to work,” he said. “I love coming here every day.”
While he is only wrapping up his first month on the job, he was able to easily integrate into the surroundings since he had served as head of the youth services library from 2006 to 2011.
“I had various roles at the Springfield Library from 2000 to 2006 and then joined the Athenaeum in 2006,” he said. “I have always enjoyed what I do and who I am doing it for – especially working with children.”
Paquette had served as director of the Lee Library from 2011 until this past summer when he applied for the Athenaeum position.
“The Athenaeum is not old and stagnant,” he said. “We are very much on the cutting edge of what libraries can offer.”
Paquette said he relishes the opportunity to wander the book stacks and talk to patrons, seeking feedback of what area residents would like to see from their library in the 21st century.
“I like a light-hearted atmosphere,” he said. “I’m a people person focused on putting our patrons first.”
Paquette describes the Athenaeum as a “place that is engaging” and “welcomes all to come in and be themselves.”
“We want to know how we can be a part of their lives and offer what they need,” he said.
While seeking feedback from patrons and staff members, Paquette also works closely with the Athenaeum’s board of directors, as well as the mayor and city councilors, since funds are allocated each year to the financial bottom line.
“I’m new in this position and I look forward to meeting with the new mayor and with councilors to explain the value of the library,” he said.
As a “team,” Paquette said his staff all work diligently to provide for the long-term stability of the organization.
“We want the Athenaeum to be a one-stop shop for all of our patron’s interests, whether it is for research, audio books, movies, toys or museum passes,” he said.
Paquette said that while the Athenaeum receives city and state funds, there is always the need to fundraise to ensure that necessary improvements to the building infrastructure are met.
“We are starting to plan for the renovations of our public bathrooms to ensure they are more functional and handicap accessible,” he said.
He also noted that the Friends of the Library are also an integral part of ensuring the Athenaeum raises funds throughout the year to support programs and services.
“The children’s toy and book sale and annual spring book sale are only two of the ways the Friends make a difference,” he said, noting that area residents can join the Friends group at any time of the year.
“Any donations are tax deductible and all proceeds go directly to support the programs and services,” he said.
While there are always infrastructure needs to address, Paquette is also bullish on expanding services and adding programs.
“One goal is to do fun family programs,” he said, noting that as a parent, he and his wife Kate also admit that finding a babysitter can be challenging at times.
“We take our daughter, Ava, 2 ½, to as many programs as we can,” he said. “I’d like to see time set aside for programming for children and at the same time, offer a movie or lecture that the parents might enjoy in another part of the library.”
Paquette also said his door is open to local organizations and businesses who would be interested in collaborating on projects to benefit patrons.
“From Stanley Park to Baystate Noble Hospital, I would like to see collaborations expand in the future at the Athenaeum,” he said.
While Paquette has to continuously look around every nook and cranny for efficiencies and improvements that can be made, he knows he can rest assured that his staff is on duty to greet every patron and assist with any questions they may have.
“Our customer friendly staff is warm and engaging,” he said. “I know how the staff is. That is why I wanted to come back.”

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