Andrea Berstler doesn’t have a typical day.
And as the executive director of Carroll County Public Libraries, installed in mid-November, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I'm not really sure there ever will be a typical day, which is one of the reasons why I love being an executive director,” she said.
She spends a lot of time in her office at the CCPL administrative offices in New Windsor, where a few baseball knick-knacks decorate the shelves and a window looks out toward the Firemen’s Building, with paperwork and emails.
There are also a lot of meetings with staff, learning about communities and planning for the future of the library.
In the beginning, visiting the branches was especially important.
“One of the strengths of the system here in the county is the fact that we allow each of the branches to have a little bit of customization according to the community they serve. … Some of them have more seniors, some of them have more families, some of them have more after-school programs, because that's what they need,” she said.
During these meetings, she asks questions like, “What is it we should be looking at doing in the next year or two? What is it that your community is asking you for that we're not doing yet? How can we better do what we're doing? How can we be more efficient? How can we be more effective? How can we have more impact on the community?”
Berstler’s first day, Nov. 12, 2018, was also the last day for former Director Lynn Wheeler, who retired after 14 years in the role and 45 years in library services.
“It was nice, they kind of had her all day and me all day,” Berstler said.
Before officially taking over the role, she attended board meetings and events with Wheeler to begin the transition to her role in Carroll County.
“I got to meet the people in the community and gain a better understanding of how the library fits into the community here,” she said of the transition.
She finds that the support for libraries in Carroll is “overwhelming.”
“Overwhelming is the best word I can come up with for it, because it really is,” she said. “The community here understands the need for education, the need to support education, to be proud of education, to talk about it, you know … as a whole community of entities who support education and across the spectrum, all ages, all different kinds of of educational platforms.”
On a wider scale, she says CCPL is recognized in the state for it’s circulation per person numbers and even further out for “providing high caliber library service even in a rural community.”
“Using the library is the best way to support it,” she said.
Berstler comes to Carroll from the Eastern Shore, where she was the executive director of the Wicomico Public Library system, and before that as a branch manager in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
Though Berstler’s jaunty glasses may fit the typical idea of someone who works in libraries, her penchant for numbers may not.
“I kind of like reading data,” she said. “You know, it’s one of those things either you do or you don’t like.”
Data can help library leadership get insight about programs services and budgeting.
“But we also rely very heavily on the staff of the branch and the branch managers to be connected to their communities,” she said.
Libraries do may things, but no library can do everything, she said, so it’s important for staff to talk to the people that come in their doors. In the changing landscape of libraries, she’s found collaboration and organization to be important when it comes to their leadership.
Two major misconceptions about the people who work in libraries?
“One is that we're at the risk of libraries closing and losing our jobs,” she said. “I don't think that that particular myth exists very much in Carroll County. Because I think people here understand what it is a little more that libraries do.
“The other piece is that we we do get to sit around and read books all day.”
The task shared by all library staff and administration is being ready to use diverse resources to find answers for the public.
“We never know what the next question is that’s going to come in the door,” Berstler said. “You don't use the same resources to answer, ‘What should my 5-year-old be reading or my 6-year-old be reading?’ as you would, say, ‘My mother's just been diagnosed with dementia, and I want to find out everything I can about it.’
“Those are two completely different questions with two completely different resources. So a lot of what librarians do is try and stay current on all the resources. So when the next person comes to the door and has a question, we can find the best source of information for them to get the best answers,” she continued.
“We wish we get to sit down and read, we really do, but that doesn’t happen. I have read more book reviews than books in the last couple of years and I think that will stay that way for a long time.”