April 19, 2018

Alice Knapp | Movers & Shakers 2003

Managing Partnerships


“Collaboration is a daily practice,” says Alice Knapp. “In a smaller place, it’s the only way to manage a library.” Knapp should know, since she spent her whole career as director of several small public libraries in Connecticut before coming to Ferguson Library as director of public services three years ago. In fact, Knapp got her first director’s job before she even had her MLS in hand. While still in library school she applied to be director of the small public library in Herkimer, NY, just to practice interviewing. “It was pretty scary when they hired me,” says Knapp. “I think I had heard of Danielle Steel, but I was only involved in academia at that point in my life.” By the time she’d been out of library school just seven years, Knapp was already on her third directorship.

One thing Knapp has learned along the way is the value of partnerships. “Your whole library becomes a better place when you rely on collaboration,” she says. But for Knapp, collaboration is both internal and external. That’s why during her tenure at Bethel Public Library she was town liaison to the Bethel School’s Technology Committee, working to develop a technology strategy for the school system. Knapp was well positioned to work on the school’s plan at the same time she was upgrading technology in the library.

“The public demanded a tech-savvy library,” says Knapp, “but we had physical limitations, so we collaborated with a local company that was working on this new project and said to us, ‘We’d like to try it out here.'” The new project turned out to be a wireless system. “We brought wireless in back in 1996 and 1997, before standards were even set,” she says. “It took somebody from the community stepping in.”

Now running a department rather than a whole institution, Knapp is part of the strategic planning process team. One of the thrusts of the new plan is to serve the changing population: for 30 percent of Stamford residents, English is a second language. “We’re opening a literacy lab using the Ellis Software package, which allows a person to watch a video, see a transcript, and record themselves,” says Knapp. In typical fashion, Knapp and her staff chose the software because several community literacy groups they were involved with were already using it. “We wanted to provide something that people wouldn’t have to learn totally new,” she says.




Current Position: Director of Public Services, Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT

Degrees: MLS, SUNY Albany, 1986; MA, History, 1985

Volunteer Work: Trustee, Stamford Historical Society