By Kate Tobiasson, Contributing Writer
Westborough – If you’ve stopped by the Children’s Room at the Westborough Public Library lately, you’ve noticed that a lot has changed in the last year. The room has a new energy, larger following and expanded programming. New paint and furniture fill the room with a bit of fresh air – but the real change comes from new Children’s Librarian Hannah Gavalis. Her buoyant spirit and exuberant personality fill the space with a contagious joy.
On a given day, Gavalis can be spotted leading a story time filled with energy and motor breaks for young readers, digging through the collection or helping a family find just the right book. She’s eager to help encourage young readers, and to help connect families in Westborough.
“I love coming in and seeing the department really busy,” Gavalis smiled. “Our circulation is up by 20 percent in the past year. I love seeing the kids come in and smile. Even on a day when I feel exhausted, when I see the kids’ smiling faces, I’m filled with joy.”
Gavalis comes from a long line of librarians, and grew up in central Massachusetts. Following Dottie Hurley’s retirement last year, Gavalis was excited at the chance to join the Westborough community.
“I have family in town so I knew the community of Westborough before I joined the library,” she explained. “I knew that Westborough was a diverse town, and one that embraces all cultures and families. That really interested me.”
Bringing more diversity into the children’s collection has been one of her missions. Children’s literature has expanded in recent years as publishers have begun to include more narratives from authors of different races, cultures and religions.
“Including these texts in the collection helps young readers and families to feel connected to what they’re reading, and better understand the world around them,” Gavalis explained. “Diversity is important in the library world right now, and is something that is important to the Westborough community.”
The new librarian has also worked to further update the children’s collection. Noting the gap between the children’s room and the teen room, she has worked to boost the collection and to create a more inclusive collection for these middle readers.
Clearly, her efforts are working. This summer, over 900 children have participated in the summer reading program, targeting children from birth through fifth grade. As of this week, 100 children finished their pre-literacy activities with their families or have read over 30 hours. These numbers are a 300-percent increase from previous years.
“Westborough is truly filled to the brim with amazing young readers!” Gavalis said.
Additionally, the library has worked to expand programming. This summer, the traditional kindergarten story was reimagined into the kindergarten pep rally. In the fall, residents can look forward to yoga at the library targeted toward youngsters and a new partnership between the library and the New England School of Music who will collaborate on a free music program for children ages 0-5.
Gavalis is excited about all of these changes and the opportunities that she is bringing to town of Westborough.
“The kids’ faces are the best part of my job,” she said. “Working with the kids is fantastic.”