Sarah Hall Hallock welcomes new director

By Ella Connors
Posted 7/10/24

A new face is at the head of the Sarah Hull Hallock Free Library, as Raven Fonfa looks to open up portals to new worlds through enhanced literary appreciation and community programming.

Fonfa …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Sarah Hall Hallock welcomes new director


A new face is at the head of the Sarah Hull Hallock Free Library, as Raven Fonfa looks to open up portals to new worlds through enhanced literary appreciation and community programming.

Fonfa became director of the Milton Library on June 10.

Originally from Woodstock, Fonfa has worked in a variety of libraries throughout her career after earning a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from Mills College and a master’s in library information science from University of California, Los Angeles. Mainly having worked in academic libraries, she always believed she would make her way to a public library someday. Previously she has held professional roles as a reference and information literacy librarian at the Culinary Institute of America and at the University of Southern California as the assistant director of the undergraduate library.

“I think that a neighborhood library feels different,” Fonfa said. “A small library that is walking distance, the kids come over riding their bikes, and retired people are able to walk here and pick up their books. I am new here. I am still getting to know the community, but our staff, who are absolutely wonderful, they know everyone’s name. They welcome them.”

Many of those who frequent the library often have expressed that though it is not technically their designated library, they come because they like the small-town, welcoming feeling of it. The building has recently undergone renovations, including an expanded children’s area with new furniture, and a community center that can be used for local groups to hold meetings. The Help Desk, which is directly by the front door, is Fonfa’s favorite part of the changes, allowing patrons to be greeted and assisted immediately upon entering the facility.

Fonfa has also been making an effort to meet with different community leaders since taking on the new position. The library has an impressive history with the arts, providing a forum for local artists to display their work. Speaking with the school superintendent, Fonfa said there are opportunities to also spotlight accomplished student work. Programs for kids are integral, focusing on school-aged and pre-k as well as homeschool families in order for them to receive support from the local resources.

“We want to make sure we find that balance between being a neighborhood library for our local community and also being more engaged in the Hudson Valley generally,” Fonfa said. “That is part of that process of outreach and promotion. That is really my focus right now.”

A new website will hopefully be launching by the end of the summer, as part of an effort to digitize and make online materials more available, like program registration. Jess Cohen, a library clerk and program facilitator, joked that Fonfa is bringing them into the 21st century.

Emphasizing the importance of reading in everyday life, especially for the youth, Fonfa mentioned its crucial role in establishing attention spans and the ability to commit and dedicate to full expositions.

“Reading and thinking critically is a skill,” Fonfa said. “People just think you learn how to read and then you know what you are doing, but that is not the case, and interacting with a full book whether it is fiction or nonfiction, is a unique experience. It is something that I think develops the mind in a way that nothing else does.”

In an era of digitized materials and social media, it can be harder to tell what to trust, leading critical thinking and literary skills to be more essential. The scope of information within society is massive, and reading is the first step into entering that space and comprehending words thoughtfully.

Addressing the library’s programming, Cohen highlighted the summer reading game being offered now mostly for school aged kids, as well as outreach and workshops for seniors, providing them with an avenue to get out of the house and socialize. Both Cohen and Fonfa agreed that it can be harder to reach the teenage and adult demographics.

Speaking of the new director, Cohen said it has been very nice to work with Fonfa.

“She is great to work with,” Cohen said. “She is very friendly and understanding. She will take all of our experience into consideration when she is making decisions, really encouraging us to be more innovative.”