Milford hires its first young adult librarian

Young adults looking for a place to hang out may want to check out the young adult section at the Milford Public Library.

With a new young adult librarian who has a passion for literature aimed at grades 6 to 12, as well as a passion for technology and the many ways of sharing and experiencing literature, the library is reaching out to the city’s young adults — and has no plans to shush them.

Diana Preece isn’t exactly new to the Milford Library staff. She’s been here since 2012, when she was hired to work in circulation. But just last month Preece was tapped to be the library’s first young adult librarian to help better serve the middle and high school age readers in Milford.
Change in staffing
“Our media librarian, Arthur Bargar, retired after 33 years of service and I decided to switch the position to the young adult position,” said Library Director Christine Angeli. “As we looked at services we offered, and what we could be doing better, it was quite obvious that we had not been serving the middle/high population well. Staff from both the adult and children’s departments made school visits, and we maintained a collection of materials, but there was no one person to reach out to the teens and to take a focused approach to building programs and services that will assist them in their personal and academic pursuits.”

Preece, who had been sharing her expertise on young adult material — including trending and graphic novels and older classics — applied for the new position and got it. Since stepping into the spot, she’s stepped up her ambitious ideas to cater better to young adults and draw more of them into the library.
A gathering place
“When I was in high school, we wanted a place to hang out,” Preece said, recalling that the libraries where she grew up were ideal for gathering to do homework and such after school.

But her vision is a little bigger than that. She wants this to be an open place, and with signs she’s posted that earmark tables for teens and signs that encourage them to share, read, invent and hang out, she’s helping to dispel the age old notion that the library is just a place where a person sits quietly and reads alone.

Of course there are still quiet sections of the library, but the young adult section, which is upstairs in the adult department, is a place unto itself and dialogue is more than welcome. The tables are surrounded by the latest in teen series and hits, like John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and older reads like the Princess Diaries and the Harry Potter books, plus books about dystopian societies and others based on history.

Milford’s young adults are diverse readers, Preece said.

“Series are really popular,” she added, indicating a number of series on the shelves. Vampires aren’t as big as they were a few years ago: “Twilight is over,” she said, referring to books by Stephenie Meyer that had readers clamoring for the next installment, and then the next, about five years ago. Today zombies are “in,” especially with the popularity of the AMC series The Walking Dead, Preece said.

There are magazines in this young adult section, too, like Seventeen, plus audio books and ebook availability. Nearby, a former passport office is being transformed into the MakerSpace, where there will be a 3D printer and other equipment where the tech savvy age group will be able to edit videos, design software, and maybe dabble with robotic programs and even a sewing machine.

MakerSpaces are popping up all over the country, Preece said. ‘“They are places where the community can come together to learn skills, share technology, create and more,” she explained.

“We want them to feel like this is their space,” she added.
Growing the collection
The Young Adult section isn’t new, but with Preece in charge, Angeli said the collection and programs will grow.

“Diana  brings to the position a passion and interest for helping Milford youth connect with the resources they need to be successful, both academically and personally,” Angeli said. “Her knowledge of our library and the Milford community will enable her to get started right away on building relationships with other youth service organizations in town, and creating a newly energized feel for the teen department. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her lead this new department.”

Preece said she is looking forward to spending more time in Milford’s schools and collaborating with teachers and the schools’ media centers, as well as developing more programs within the library.
A calling
Libraries aren’t by any means new to this new young adult librarian. There was a point in her life when she told herself she was not going to be a librarian: She’d been a library paige and a library assistant in Shelton and worked at her college library. Her mother is a librarian in Shelton, and her mother-in-law is a librarian in Maine. Her husband isn’t a librarian, he’s a graphic artist, but he’s actually working in a library right now, Preece said with a laugh.

Apparently the library was calling her.

Preece earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and her master’s degree in library and information science from Drexel University in Philadelphia.

She said she loves her job.

“I look forward to doing wonderful things here in the future,” Preece said.