Vermont Business Magazine Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced the appointment of Mary Danko as the new director of the Fletcher Free Library in the City of Burlington. Mary brings over 14 years of library experience, including three years as director of the Weathersfield Proctor Library and four years as director of the Hartland Public Library in Vermont. Mary currently runs the Abbott Library in Sunapee, New Hampshire, where she has served as Library Director for over four years. The Abbott Library was named Library of the Year by the New Hampshire Library Trustee Association in the fall of 2015. Mayor Weinberger has asked the City Council to confirm the appointment at its January 23, 2017 meeting.
“The Fletcher Free Library is experiencing an exciting period of capital investment, programmatic expansion, and growing public use and enjoyment,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “Mary Danko is the right person to continue the reinvigoration and strategic reinvention of our beloved library.”
Mary grew up outside of Cleveland, Ohio, the granddaughter of immigrants from Czechoslovakia and Ireland. Her parents never attained a college degree, but they fostered in Mary a love of reading and a lifelong intellectual curiosity, as well as introduced her to regular visits to the local library. Throughout her career, Mary has demonstrated passion, creativity, and a collaborative management style. She has a long history of prioritizing community engagement, and has strived to develop library programming that adds value to the lives of community members, as well as programming that is dynamic and responsive to current events. She has also proven herself to be a skilled administrator of budgets, personnel, and major projects.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of Burlington in such vital role,” said Mary. “I’ve always loved the City of Burlington and have been impressed by its commitment to innovation and forward thinking approaches to serving the community. I’m excited to continue that same commitment at the Fletcher Free Library. The Fletcher Free Library has a history of being an institution of community engagement and life-long learning. I’m enthusiastic to be a part the team that provides vital and meaningful services and support to the people of Burlington.”
"The Fletcher Free Library has been on an exciting path in recent years to redefine its role in the community, while continuing to deliver the core library services that Burlington relies on,” said East District Councilor Selene Colburne, who served on the eight-person search committee for a new Library Director. “Mary Danko has demonstrated her creativity, passion, and collaborative approaches in libraries throughout Vermont and New Hampshire, and her leadership will be a huge asset as the Fletcher Free develops new partnerships and programs that reflect the needs of twenty-first century library users."
Recent Library progress and accomplishment
The Fletcher Free Library is an extraordinarily active library, well-used by the public. The Library had 244,673 visits (approximately 700 visits a day), circulated 331,820 materials (over 900 checkouts a day), averaged 12,737 active patrons a month, and registered 2,590 new patrons during Fiscal Year 2016.
· Patrons of the Fletcher Free Library are enjoying significant capital improvements made to the library in Fiscal Year 2014 through 2016, approximately $600,000 of capital investment over the past several years. Improvements include HVAC and lighting upgrades, urgent repairs to skylights and the glass wall in the Main Reading Room, repairs to the roof, and the installation of new laptop tables for public use and new carpeting in the Main Reading Room. Patrons and staff also benefited in 2016 from the addition of a security guard at the library.
· Youth and teen programming continued to increase in 2016, with the hiring of the Library’s first-ever Teen Services Librarian in January of 2016, and the expansion of two part-time positions in the Children’s Library to full time in FY16. Over 2016, the Teen Librarian piloted core and passive teen programming, including Teen Write, Teen Make, and Teen Challenge, and the Library also created a new, 13-member Teen Advisory Committee to advise, plan, and implement future teen programs.
· For the first time, the Fletcher Free Library will be hosting a major new Smithsonian exhibit, having been selected through a nationwide competitive process as one of 19 US public libraries to host this traveling exhibition. The Smithsonian “Exploring Human Origins: What Does It Mean to Be Human?” marks a new type of opportunity for our community, and signals Fletcher Free’s reinvigoration as a cultural hub in Burlington. The exhibition seeks to shed light on what we know about human origins and how we know it. It will be hosted at the Library from February 18, 2017 – March 17, 2017.
· Programs in 2016 included two long-distance music events held with the help of partners Burlington Telecom and Big Heavy World using LOLA (“low latency”) technology to allow musicians in Burlington and Chattanooga, Tennessee to play a concert together.
· Finally, the Fletcher Free staff completed its new Strategic Plan for 2016-2020. Under the guidance of a national library consultant, the Library convened nine community forums, held focus groups and workshops, and administered a survey. Results of this community engagement process were foundational to the development of the strategic plan.
Record of collaboration, innovation, and strong results
Mary is well-prepared to assume the leadership of this vital institution. Her management style has fostered strong teamwork within her library staff, supporting new ideas and initiatives to grow and adapt the library to a changing world in the communities where she has worked. She has fostered new partnerships with schools and other outside groups, finding opportunities for collaboration that increase the library’s positive impact for people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds. For example, the Abbott Library has partnered with the local schools to put on technology programs, superintendent forums, student art exhibits and meet the teacher nights. Over the summer, the library began a new initiative to act as a testing center for students’ summer reading books. Under her leadership, the Abbott Library has also offered various other programs, such as a community forum on substance abuse and a series on meditation and mindfulness.
Mary has also shown a consistent commitment to fiscal responsibility, managing Budget and Strategic planning in cooperation with the Library Board of Trustees, overseeing the library’s finances and operating budget, and writing grant proposals. She has also shown leadership around successful fundraising efforts. While at the Abbott Library, she collaborated with the Abbott Library Foundation to complete the new Abbott Library Project Fundraising campaign for $1.3 million to build the new, eponymous library in Sunapee, NH.
Since 2015, Mary has acted as Vice President and now President of the New England Library Association, where she has been leading an effort to help make the Association’s leadership more diverse. She is in the planning stages for a Diversity Summit in the summer of 2017 that will bring librarians and change leaders together for a day of engagement. In 2016, as Vice President, she served as conference chair for the conference “Imagining Tomorrow,” where librarians from the six New England states attended programs over three days. Prior to her service on the New England Library Association, she served as Green Mountain Library Consortium Board Member & President from 2010-2012. The Green Mountain Library Consortium was the first organization in Vermont to offer a platform and content to public libraries for downloadable audio books and eBooks while also starting and expanding an Open Source ILS (Integrated Library System) project, and VOKAL (Vermont Organization of Koha Automated Libraries).
Mary has an academic grounding in the profession, having secured a Master of Science in Library & Information Science at Syracuse University.
Search process and next steps
The national search for the new Fletcher Free Director was lead by an eight-person committee that reviewed over 40 applications and recommended finalists to the Mayor. If confirmed by the Council on January 23, Mary will begin her appointment on February 6, 2017.