By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Southborough – Ryan Donovan brings lots of varied experience with him as the new director of the Southborough Public Library. His first job while in high school was working as a page at the public library in his hometown of Nashua, N.H. His responsibilities soon increased, as did his interest in working at a library.
“Part of the reason I went to college in Nashua was to keep my job because I loved it so much there,” he said. “I felt like I was good at it, so I wanted to continue.”
After receiving a bachelor's degree in sociology and philosophy at Rivier College (now known as Rivier University), Donovan moved to Boston and earned a master's degree in library science at Simmons College. Soon after graduating, he attended the American Library Association conference and had successful interviews with large library systems that were recruiting.
Donovan was hired in September 2008 by the New York Public Library, which has a year-long review process for new employees. He was initially assigned to work in the South Bronx branch.
“It was a very big culture shock to go from suburban New Hampshire to the South Bronx in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country,” he said. “The only reason I think the library didn's have more problems is because we were two blocks away from the local police precinct.”
It was at that branch where Donovan began broadening his scope of library experience with on-the-job training. He was assigned to work primarily in young adult services.
“I helped our branch librarian run the teen advisory group,” he said. “At that point, I wasn's even familiar with what a teen advisory group was. But the teenagers who came into the library were great. I think they just wanted a staff member who listened to them.”
Donovan started reading teen fiction so that he could recommend books to the young adult patrons. When colleagues told him that they reviewed young adult books for the School Library Journal, he decided to give it a try. He still reviews regularly for the journal.
Fifteen months later, Donovan was transferred to New York's Mid-Manhattan Library as a senior librarian. There, he was assigned to the first-floor popular collection. He also seized the opportunity to once again expand his library experience. He worked overtime Sundays in the Children's Room where he was assigned to read for story time.
“I had never read to children before,” he said. “The first time was very scary, but then I loved doing it. I's pick some backup books and the kids would scream for me to read more. I was supposed to read three or four books, but every time I did eight or nine. You have to do it when your audience is demanding more.”
Feeling ready to work in library administration, Donovan applied for the director position in Southborough. He left his job in New York in April and began in Southborough in May.
“I worked with some great people in New York, but the majority were there for a long time and it had become business as usual for them,” he said. “Everyone on the staff here in Southborough is very engaged in their job. They'se readers and they know the community. They love what they do and it shows.”
While in New York, Donovan developed relationships with authors who he'sl invite to appear locally in conjunction with the Friends of the Southborough Library.
“I's trying to help our Friends group with programming,” he said. “I want to try to make this the best library that it can be.”