Integration, community and people are what Chy Ross, the new managing librarian at Edmonds Library, is all about.
An Everett local and transplant from Mountlake Terrace Library, where he was also the library manager, Ross moved into the top position at Edmonds Library in mid-December, filling the shoes of longtime Managing Librarian Lesly Kaplan, who retired.
“I’m happy right where I am,” he said. “My plan is to be here long term.”
Both the physical size of the Edmonds Library and the size of its collection were appealing to Ross. He was also attracted to the idea of working in a slightly larger community, like Edmonds.
“Edmonds is a great library and a great town with lots of active, civically minded people,” he said.
Ross has worked in many libraries, from rural areas of only 300 people to larger cities. He says that, regardless of population size, a library is a reflection of its community — which is essentially Ross’s catch phrase.
“If you are working in a major urban library where there are lots of issues, if they are struggling with social ills and it isn’t a very cohesive community, that is going to be reflected in the library,” Ross said. “But big cities also have very rich, cohesive communities and that will show up in the library as well.”
The passion that Edmonds residents have for their library has allowed for a strong, lasting relationship, and Ross wants to continue to build on this existing connection.
“I need to be aware of what is happening in the community, of what the community is like, so I can be sure the library is being responsive and working hard to meet the current needs,” Ross said. “It is important for the library to be integrated with other things that are happening – so we don’t exist in a vacuum. It is important that we are working together towards common goals with organizations that have similar goals as us.”
Specifically, Ross, Kaplan and other library employees have fostered relationships with the Edmonds School District, the Edmonds Arts Commission, the Edmonds Senior Center, and the Edmonds Museum and Historical Society, among others.
Katie Kelly, the Edmonds Museum’s collections manager, said partnering with the library to digitize a large collection of historical photos has allowed them to reach a broader audience.
“Working together has been a wonderful experience,” she said. “Being able to combine our resources has enabled the museum to reach out to the community in a way which has been previously unavailable.”
These unique partnerships and having the ability to teach community members how to access and use the latest technology is important to Ross. He says maintaining his tech savvy is a professional responsibility.
“It is part of our job – we are in the business of connecting people with information,” he said. “My hope and my goal is that if someone in the community of Edmonds has an information need, the first thing they think of is the library.”
In addition to strengthening community relationships, Ross and fellow library employees hope to alter stereotypes that surround libraries.
Richard Suico, an assistant managing librarian, says for him the Edmonds Library is more than a place to find the latest bestseller.
“The library can be a place to be purposeless,” Suico said. “There is no institution that is as relevant for more people both recreationally and for focused purposes from birth to our later years like the public library.”
While Ross likes that when most people hear library, they think books, he wants everyone to realize the extent of a modern library’s offerings, including what is available at the touch of a computer keyboard.
“This screen we are looking at right here is a bigger library than the building we are sitting in and it takes up no shelf space,” he said. “If someone comes in here and needs something, it is great that I can get that for them because it is here in my building – thanks to the technology. What the technology delivers inspires me and makes me passionate about being a librarian.”
— Story and photo by Kate Clark