New Montclair Library director looks to increase use of all its resources
When Janet Torsney officially became the director of the Montclair Public Library in August, she was taking on the leadership of an institution she already knew well.
She had served as interim director for about five months after the previous director, Peter Coyl, resigned to take a position in Sacramento, California.
From 2017 to 2018, she was assistant director at the library. And in 2007, when Torsney was working on her master’s degree in library science at Rutgers University, she chose Montclair as the place to do an internship.
Although she took a small career detour into the communications field, she said she is overwhelmed with emotions now that her library career has come full circle.
“It’s so great,” Torsney said of the Montclair Public Library. “I love it. And it was my childhood library, too.
And we actually moved back to raise our kids in Montclair, so that was their first library. So I have all these feelings. I have to say, I’m just devoted to the library.”
As a Montclair native, Torsney hopes to make the library even better than it was when she was growing up. In September, which was library card signup month, she pulled out all the stops to encourage people in the community to make use of the resources that their tax dollars go toward.
In September, the library offered “library card bingo” to help inform people about the benefits of having a library card. For the entire month, library card holders could fill out a card that had different library resources and activities on it. For example, saying hello to a library staff member, checking out something other than a book, and browsing the library’s free museum passes. Individuals who completed 12 of the 16 prompts could enter a drawing for a prize.
The library offers free virtual classes for learning languages. Participants can choose from 10 languages.
Mainly, Torsney wants to emphasize the importance of libraries and the variety of free resources for the community. Residents can obtain free museum passes, rent computers and tablets, and have access to free notary services.
The library also has an Adult School where residents can take classes in such areas as arts and crafts; books, theater and film; career development; computers and technology; finance; fitness; health and wellness; home and garden; languages; history and culture; music; personal growth; and writing. Signup is available online at montclairlibrary.org.
Torsney encourages residents to attend the library’s “Open Book/Open Mind” series, a partnership with Watchung Booksellers, where authors from all over visit Montclair either in person or virtually for a live conversation with another author. On Thursday, Oct. 13, New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman will discuss her new book, “Confidence Man,” at First Congregational Church.
Starting this year, Torsney said, she hopes to create a strategic plan to get more Montclairians involved in the public library. She hopes to create a space where interest groups can form and the library can assist those groups with getting the resources they need. For example, the library could provide a platform for people interested in solar power and help share information about bringing more solar power to the community. .
After working in libraries for nearly 15 years, Torsney said, she knows the pillar of these institutions are the people and she’s excited to talk with members of the community to learn the ways in which the library can continue to serve them best.
“My main thing right now is I want to get in touch with all the people in the community and make sure they know they're welcome.” Torsney said.
As she takes on her role as director, Torsney is reminded every day that her time at the Montclair Public Library is intentional. Coming back from lunch one day she saw a message from more than 30 years ago from a familiar name.
“I saw one of those stones in front of the library, and it said, ‘No matter where you go, there you are,’” she said. “And it was from my father. Maybe he knew.”