Poudre River Public Library’s new executive director, Diane Lapierre, officially started in January. We sat down for a quick interview to get to know her better.
What led to you a career in public libraries?
When I look back on it, I have always gravitated to libraries from being a child and hanging out at Loveland Public Library to volunteering in my elementary school library. Then in college I had a work study job working at a children’s library.
I was an art history major and wanted to continue to do something around learning and reading, and not necessarily art history so I went to library school thinking I would be a children’s librarian. I never actually had that job but I loved public libraries – that was really where my passion was. Feeling like you could make a difference in the community and help people in all the different ways they may need help to live their best lives
What energizes you about your work?
There’s two things. First, the people you work with. Working for anything that is such a mission-driven organization, people really share that common sense of purpose. And the flip side is the community and the customers really seeing what difference you’re making helping people out.
What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute your success to, and why?
So, making libraries a welcoming space a principle I believe in; playing to people’s strengths in an organization and finding those opportunities for people to really grow is something I believe strongly in. I am nutty about strategic planning, I love the idea of having a plan that connects all the work in an organization so that we’re working in a coordinated way and that also has that turned outward approach that is really responsive to the community.
What do you think is most important for people to know about public libraries?
We do much and I think it’s always a challenge. There’s no way to create a marketing campaign that says we do everything and just come here and figure it out; so I think that personalized service – that human touch – and having a physical space is so important. That brings people and connects them in a way that they are sharing a space, experiencing the same program or learning, or whatever it might be.
Searching for information is one very small component. Having people and a place and just all the rich resources that are way beyond what any individual could find for themselves.
As we move through the pandemic, how do you see the role of libraries changing?
I think it’s so important for us to remain of service even when it is hard from a public health perspective – both to be open to our customers and to have a safe work environment. It’s so important for us to be flexible and figure out how to do that as best as possible.
That includes more service in the virtual space than I think we did before, which works for some people, but it’s also an acknowledgement that public libraries are often the only place people can connect to the virtual world. So making sure that we are able to serve people who are not online either through our spaces or through outreach. I’m really excited about the energy around outreach and finding people and populations who don’t necessarily walk through our doors and to be of service to those folks however and wherever they need it. I think that will continue to be important; it has been important with our homebound folks and again people who can’t come through our doors for whatever reason that is – the pandemic, lack of transportation, it’s not convenient, or they’re not aware.
What excites you about the future of the Poudre Libraries and our community?
That’s the reason I’m here because I am excited about the potential for the library and just the type of community this is. There’s been a lot of planning and thoughtful analysis of the needs of the community and how the library can respond, and I’m excited to dig into those plans. There’s a lot of good rich thought, so taking that and starting to create action plans and strategic plans out of those plans is very exciting to me.
And to be in a community that is supportive of their library. This community is very engaged and supportive of quality-of-life opportunities like the library. They want it and will respond to and support it going forward.
What are you currently curious about learning, doing?
I’m curious about a lot of things. I was an art history major and I am eager to start creating art again and I’m not exactly sure what that looks like. I’m just ending a career in flamenco dance, so I am curious about the arts. I’m curious about those opportunities to create art in Fort Collins.
Favorite book, author, or genre?
The book that I get most excited about for new releases – and it’s due on our shelves momentarily – is Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley mystery series. That is just pure pleasure reading.
Author-wise, I love Amy Tan and Isabelle Allende and Edwidge Danticat. Those are three of my favorite authors, and they all have a very strong and very different-from-me cultural experiences and heritage. I think that is one of the best parts about reading, to experience somebody else’s life and characters and emotions; all of it.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
That is exactly what I’m trying to figure out. I’ve spent my spare time flamenco dancing for 23 years, and our company just closed. So I’m trying to figure out what to do with that spare time.
I have two sons – one’s in college and the other is very athletic, so I spend a lot of my spare time going to rugby matches and basketball games. And walking my dog and hanging out with my family.
What is a fun fact about you that people may not know?
My father was a professor at Colorado State University and taught there for over 30 years in wildlife, biology and natural resource management. When he was on sabbatical once, we got to live in Africa in Kenya and then my senior year in high school I went on a sabbatical with my dad in New Zealand.