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Hillsdale Library Gets Facelift, New Manager

[Posted September 1, 2022]

Amy Miller stepped into her new role as manager of the Hillsdale Library on June 1, taking over from Patti Vincent, who filled the position for six months following the departure of long-time manager Jay Hadley. Amy talked with the Hillsdale News recently about what’s coming up at the Hillsdale Library.

First, Amy shared some salient facts about herself and her career with the Multnomah County Library system:

After living in California and Washington for many years, she earned her library degree in Las Vegas before moving to the Portland area. Her first job with the Multnomah County Library was as Teen Librarian in Gresham. Four years later she took a temporary position in a supervisor position at the Belmont branch, which turned into a two-and-a-half-year stay. Then in January 2020 she found herself back at the Gresham library, just in time for the Covid shutdown and a year of working remotely planning and implementing virtual youth programs. From there she moved to Kenton as administrator and then in November of 2021 to Capitol Hill in the same capacity.

A smiling woman stands next to an oak tree.
Newly appointed manager Amy Miller has joined the Hillsdale library team.

Books have always been a very important part of her life, she said, but her first job in a library, after relocating to Las Vegas, was “just a job.” Encouraged by co-workers to pursue a library degree, she did that just and has been very happily employed in libraries ever since.

Amy's energy and enthusiasm for all things library, as well as a fervent desire to get back to library business as usual after the pandemic, became evident in the course of our talk. She’s excited at the prospect of “getting out of this covid stalemate we’re in” and resuming a program of public events: cultural celebrations, a community services fair, college prep assistance for high school kids, activities for seniors who are looking to make new social connections, books groups and other common interest groups.

About her own particular librarian super power, she said, “My love language in the library, other than programs and story times, is how to display things. I love to think of ways to showcase items that people may not know we have in our stacks, or that are hidden in the nonfiction part of our collection.”

She enjoys spending time outdoors with her family, camping, hiking and kayaking, attending concerts, playing with her cats and dog, going to the beach and reading historical fiction.

Scaffolding went up covering the library's facade so the wood panelling could be repainted.

Next on our agenda, and a most obvious topic of discussion, was the scaffolding covering the entire facade of the library for the past couple of weeks. By the time you read this, the scaffolding will be gone, revealing newly re-painted wood panels that are being refreshed as part of the normal maintenance on the now almost 20-year-old building. (For a history of the library in southwest Portland going back to 1913, check out this page.) Coming up soon is new paint for the bike racks and handrails.

That topic led to discussion of other changes we might see in the near future: Updates to the Russian collections are in the works, the large-print section may be moved closer to the entrance to make it more easily accessible, and Miller has plans to improve the visibility of the Jewish/Hebrew holdings. These adjustments illustrate Amy’s interest in new ways for the library to reflect the Hillsdale community.

A little further down the timeline are “refresh” projects funded by the 2020 library bond measure, which provides for construction of new facilities as well as upgrades to existing buildings in the system, including Hillsdale. Those upgrades, still in the planning stages, are expected to focus on improving patron experiences in the library. Amy hopes the refresh will, among other things, include new furniture and fixtures to allow spaces to be used more flexibly; for example, shelving that can be easily moved to create space for events. Other improvements being considered will allow staff to interact more directly with library patrons—taking out big desks that separate staff from the public, for instance.

In another development, Hillsdale’s long-time youth librarian, Barbara Head, will be leaving the Hillsdale branch this month to begin a new position with the library's School Corps, working with educators and students. “The youth librarian is the heart of the library,” Amy said, so she aims to fill the vacancy soon. A focus for the new youth librarian, she added, will be to develop programming for children of all ages, not just little kids, to get them engaged and having fun at the library.

Otherwise, the library is fully staffed, and the volunteer program is currently at capacity with a group of around 22 “very energetic, dedicated volunteers.”

Miller noted that she learned from former manager Jay Hadley that volunteers in Hillsdale were instrumental in getting services back up and running after the Covid closure. They continue to accomplish behind-the-scenes tasks that free up staff to devote more time to direct customer service and special projects, like designing displays.

In a sign of approaching normalcy, meeting rooms are now open for public events. The process is a little different now: reservations must be made online and, at least for now, are only accepted one month in advance. Also expected to return soon is the Lucky Day program, a prominent display with popular books, often with long hold waitlists, available on a first-come, first-served basis.

2022 Rose Festival Queen Senya Scott in front of the "Queen Senya" display at the Hillsdale library.

Although children’s story times are not expected to resume until the fall, Amy is very proud of an event that came together recently. Shortly after taking up her duties in Hillsdale, Amy learned that Senya Scott, the reigning Rose Festival Queen is an Ida B. Wells grad. She worked with staff and a SummerWorks intern to create a display featuring Queen Senya, then added in a special public event to coincide with a visit from a local campfire group: a royal storytime featuring a read-aloud by Queen Senya. “Senya is just a natural, it was almost like she walked in as a full-fledged youth librarian. That kind of multi-layered public event is what I’m after–any way I can give kids and families opportunities. I cannot wait to bring back story times and programming in general for all ages!” she told me.

Storytime with Queen Senya.

We ended our conversation with some things that Amy wants to make sure everyone knows about the library:

The Hillsdale Library has significant programming designed for people reentering the workforce or starting a small business, computer technology assistance, free printing, and other free services. Staff are also partnering with the Red Cross to hold several blood drives in the upcoming months.

“Everyone is welcome in our buildings”, she said. “We direct people to services, like where to get a free phone, or an id, even if they don’t have an address. We are more than a place for books, we are a social service when it comes to helping people.”

Amy has enjoyed getting to know the members of the Hillsdale community, and looks forward to meeting more of them. After all, she said, “Some of the best ideas come from chatting with people.”

—Valeurie Friedman


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