A few years ago, Pauline Stacchini made a stop in Emporia on her way to Nebraska and remarked that it looked like a nice place to settle down. This month she started her role as the executive director of Emporia Public Library.
“We stopped on one of our many road trips and pulled off for lunch,” she said of the visit. “We stopped at Do-B’s and drove around the town and thought, this is a really nice place.”
Stacchini took the reins at the library on Oct. 10, following the retirement of Robin Newell in September.
Stacchini was raised in France. Her mother was American and her father was French, and the family relocated to the United States to be closer to relatives.
She previously worked as a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Bellevue University’s Freeman-Lozier Library in Bellevue, Neb., spent four years at the Dallas Public Library in various roles, culminating in her position of manager over strategic initiatives. Most recently, she worked as a library manager at the Austin Public Library, since 2018.
Stacchini said she’s always been a big reader, with a great love for books and learning. She credited her mother for inspiring her future career in libraries.
“We all become our mothers; it is our blessing and our curse,” Stacchini said with a laugh. “She volunteered in my elementary school library. I got my first case of working in a library at [St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md.], where I got my undergraduate degree, just answering those off-the-wall questions and going through and finding that information.”
The experience made a lasting impression on Stacchini, who went on to earn her Master’s of Library and Information Science from the University of Iowa.
“One of the reasons that I do what I do is because I want to make the world a better place,” she said. “My skillset of strategic thought process, big vision planning and the ability to kind of telescope down to, how do we make this happen? Every day I’ve thought the library was a good place for that. Libraries have so much to offer, from just being a place that people can go with no strings attached to all the resources, staff expertise, books, movies and online resources.”
Stacchini, who had been looking to get into more director-level work, said her interest piqued when she saw an opening at EPL. She was impressed with the community’s support for the library and its programming.
“It was really important for me to make sure this was a place that supported its library and cared about what happens in the building, and how the library interacts with the community,” she said.
Further, Stacchini felt the physical space of the library was well-maintained and “very welcoming.” And Stacchini noticed areas in which she believes she could make a difference.
“The first thing that has to happen is a strategic plan,” she said, noting that she understands the concerns about what happens with the Carnegie Library building. “I know that’s a big topic in the city right now: what’s going to happen with that property? Do we make a decision now, do we have the luxury of time? Or do we have a strategic plan and really define what the library is about?”
The best possible outcome for the space, she continued, is something that “improves the quality of life for the citizens of Emporia.”
“I understand the city commission has to make decisions that are in their best interest, so hopefully they think the library is in their best interest,” she said. “Perhaps there’s something else that can really bring vitality to downtown.”
Stacchini said she also does not believe there’s a “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to libraries. She appreciates the governing board currently in place at the library, and believes libraries need a diversity of voices in order to be successful.
“I think we need to hear from the people who use the library, for the library who want to be successful,” she said.
That’s why she’s hoping to hear from both current library patrons and those who have never set foot in the library.
“I want emails, I want phone calls, I want knocks on the door,” she said. “That goes for the good and the bad. I get to see a lot of what happens on the floor in this office, which is great, but I don’t always get to hear the really great stories. ... One of the things that I think is going to be key in making sure the library is future foward is evaluating people’s everyday life. We’re going to need to hear from people about what they want, what they need and what we can provide.”
Emporia Public Library is located at 110 E. 6th Ave. For more information, contact the library at 620-340-6464 or visit emporialibrary.org.