November 17, 2017

Ramona Harten | Movers & Shakers 2010 – Advocates

Library Journal March 15, 2010: Ramona Harten, Mover & Shaker

Solid as a Rock

“Personable, smart, young and energetic, Ramona Harten has great communication skills and a tremendous passion for libraries,” says Eileen Topitzer, Cheshire Public Library (CPL) reference librarian. Those assets were evident upon her arrival as director—in her first director position. She created the library’s first strategic plan, fostered better relationships with town officials, streamlined library policies, moved CPL to a different ILS consortium, got funding increases, and upgraded library technology. CPL circulation increased by 37 percent in four years.

Her passion for what libraries stand and her communication skills were soon tested, however. Just five years after being appointed CPL director, Harten faced a maelstrom of controversy. Library policy dictates that CPL buy titles requested by users and everything about Cheshire. Many opposed the CPL decision to buy Brian McDonald’s In the Middle of the Night: The Shocking True Story of a Family Killed in Cold Blood, which describes the horrific murder of a Cheshire family.

Harten’s purchase was challenged by several citizens and one member of the library board. At a special board meeting, nearly 100 people came and dozens spoke. There was a barrage of news coverage, local and national.

“I emailed Harten after the last library board meeting in Cheshire to thank her for standing up, not for me or my book but for what is right,” McDonald writes LJ. “Believe me, as someone with firsthand knowledge, she withstood a considerable amount of animus. But she did so with nothing to gain, other than the satisfaction you get from staying true to your principles.”

Unmoved by her emotions, public pressure, and personal insults, Harten articulated the basic values of librarianship to citizens and the news media with poise and dignity. She stood firm.

Vitals

Ramona Harten, Cheshire Public Library, CT

CURRENT POSITION Library Director

DEGREE MLS, Southern Connecticut State University, 1998

CREDO Librarianship’s core values

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