Words into Deeds
Reference Librarian and VP, Vermont Public Library Association
Vermont Technical College, Randolph Center
MSLIS, Palmer School/Long Island University, Brookville, NY, 2011; MA, English Literature, University of Montana, Missoula, 2006
Photo by Daisy Benson
Tackling huge professional challenges has become something of a habit for Lydia Willoughby, whether it’s serving in AmeriCorps, organizing nonprofits and advocacy groups, or even solo directing a small, rural public library in Westford, VT, fresh out of grad school.
Willoughby’s real specialty, however, is bringing people together. While still a student in 2010, she began working with Literacy for Incarcerated Teens (LIT) and organized the sold-out, 500-ticket Biblioball: Spellbound fundraiser with the Desk Set, a New York City–based librarian group, which raised $10,000 for LIT.
“Lydia helped promote LIT’s important work to hundreds of area librarians,” says Desk Set cofounder Sarah Murphy. “[She] is a passionate advocate for the greater good….”
During her tenure at Westford PL, Willoughby engaged the community through a new website, Facebook and Twitter profiles, promotion at the local farmer’s market, an expansion of lending materials to include more popular fiction and DVDs, and diverse new programming. As a result circulation and attendance both increased dramatically. “For me, being a librarian is all about organizing and outreach,” says Willoughby. “Getting people in the door (or on the site) is the first step. The real work comes after.”
Willoughby is also the volunteer coordinator of a courier service pilot project among eight rural public libraries and recently founded Rural Librarians Unite in the wake of the December 2012 layoffs of the entire library staff at St. Johnsbury Athenaeum in Vermont. The group’s first rally, in January 2013, drew 230 people who “stood out in the cold to talk about the value of libraries,” she reports. As she explains, “The work that I’m most proud of and that is most exciting to me happens outside of traditional library spaces.”