ROCKPORT – For some, a library is just a building within a town or city that houses books, upon books, upon books. However, for many, a library is more than just that. It is connection; it is learning and it is a place where community grows.

Charlie Gluck, the youth services director at the Rockport Public Library, stepped into her role, and the library’s new children’s room, in 2021, ready to breathe life into youth programming, outreach work, and community connections. She has already begun laying the groundwork for accessibility to fun and learning to the community’s youngest, and school-aged members.

Gluck, 28, grew up in New York and attended college for creative writing.

She said she had amazing professors, and loved the library there. However, being a librarian was not something she had thought about at the time.

“It wasn’t on my mind, I didn’t see a career as a librarian as a thing I could do. I didn’t really have a visualization of my future at that point,” she said.

After she graduated, she met her now husband, and after moving in with his family, learned that his sister was a librarian’s assistant and that they had gone to different schools, but for the same degree.

Gluck was able to see all of the work that she was doing, which was a lot with teenagers, and doing the teen programing for the library summer reading program.

“I thought, I could do that,” she said.

From there, she began looking into masters programs.

“A lot of professional librarian positions require masters degrees. Not as much in Maine, but in other states, they do expect you to have some type of advanced education,” she said.

She applied alongside Justin’s sister to Simmons University in Boston, Mass., and the pair was accepted.

Not only did that mean working toward becoming a librarian, but it also gave Gluck the opportunity to fulfill a long-time desire to live in a city.

“I had always wanted to live in Boston, because I had never lived in a city. I grew up in a very rural place,” she said.

In the summer before graduating, she began work as a teen librarian on the South Shore of Massachusetts.

“That was a very interesting job, and a long commute out of Boston,” she said.

After a year, she took a position with the Chinatown branch of the Boston Public Library.

There, Gluck said that she learned a lot, and got to work alongside many librarians who were ambitious, driven, and creative.

“I hadn’t had that kind of full-on experience with these other professionals who really loved what they were doing and were passionate about it,” she said.

She added that they were wonderful to talk to and collaborate with.

Just before the pandemic related shutdowns started, Gluck accepted a role at the BPL as their youth outreach librarian.

She began work in that role just two weeks before the library shut down.

“That was an interesting transition,” she said.

“I really liked that role, but it was different in the pandemic,” she added.

The new children and teen room at the Rockport Public Library. Photo Courtesy of Charlie Gluck

Everything that Gluck had been doing in person was no longer possible, and a lot of the communities she would have been serving did not have the same technologies that she had at her disposal as a librarian.

“I couldn’t give them that access because of all the limitations that we were under,” she said.

She found herself in a role that she had thought would connect her more to the communities, feeling more isolated instead.

“I started re-evaluating what I wanted out of a job,” she said.

She added that she did not think that her goals had changed, as she still wanted to be a part of a community and working with children.

“I wanted to be able to see them grow,” she said.

She explained that Chinatown was very transient, and said that the city of Boston itself moves and shifts around frequently.

“The youth outreach position, you usually reach people at a point of need, but it’s temporary,” she said.

It was at that time, she began looking for new library positions.

In 2014, she first came to Maine with Justin’s family during one of their family trips. They regularly came to the Gouldboro area because they enjoyed the Mount Desert Island area.

“My husband and I both loved Maine. We started coming every year after getting married in 2018,” Gluck said.

She added that every time they had time off from their jobs, they had come to the state for trips. Their honeymoon even being put on hold until they were able to have it in the Forks, spending the turn of the new year there.

It was a spring visit to Maine in 2021 that had Gluck realizing that she no longer wanted to just visit the state, but it was time to call it home.

She and Justin were staying in a cottage on Islesboro, and she said that when she woke one morning with the sun, she felt tired of feeling homesick for a place where she did not live.

“We resolved to start applying for jobs in Maine at that time,” she said.

During the summer, she applied for a position as the Youth Services Director at the Rockport Public Library. Upon being accepted to the position, the struggle for the couple to find housing in the area set in.

The new children and teen room at the Rockport Public Library. Photo Courtesy of Charlie Gluck

Fate would be on their sides as the stars were lined up to help them find housing.

“We moved on Sept. 30, and I started here, at the library that Monday morning,” Gluck said.

“It has been an interesting ride here so far, but every morning, driving to work, we feel grateful that we made it up here in a strange way, and that it is for the skills and interests we have,” she added.

“This library is a beautiful library to work in,” she said.

Added to that beauty, she said, is that it is just steps away from the ocean.

“I get to do story walks at the harbor every month. To be able to walk to the ocean and do a program there is still completely novel to me,” she said.

Something she has never had before, she feels unsure that she will get used to walking out of the steps of the library and smelling the sea.

Starting a new job, in a completely new area, can feel overwhelming, and sometimes even intimidating. For Gluck, she said the community has been kind and welcoming.

“When I’ve reached out to get various people involved in library projects, everyone has been kind and willing to work together. It has been very refreshing,” she said.

In the libraries that Gluck has previously worked in, she said that they were more often meeting people at a place of need, versus now, working at the Rockport Public Library, she is able to meet people in a place of want.

“It’s kind of exciting to be able to expand past that, to see what a point of want looks like,” she said.

She is also hopeful that the library could be a true community space.

A scene from the Easter egg scavenger hunt organized by Gluck, held at the Rockport Public Library. Photo by Holly Vanorse Spicer

“When the library was built, that was the main goal, that the children’s room be a full-on children’s room, that there be a legitimate programming space,” she said.

Gluck added that the space has been fun as she has been able to bring programs back and bring the room a little more to life. It has also been great to see the kids meeting up with each other, and parents finally being able to meet one another, she said.

“Some of them had kids over the pandemic, so this is the first their kids are socializing with other kids, this is the first time they, new parents, are getting to make parent connections, and socialize with parents,” she said.

She said that she thinks in an area like Rockport, and surrounding communities, being a parent of multiple children, or even one child, can be lonely.

“There’s not really a lot of free opportunities for parents to meet each other without their child taking the full force of their attention. To be able to have an adult conversation is greatly underestimated, I think,” Gluck said.

She created programs like Messy Art Studio and Lego Club with that thought in mind. It gives children the opportunity to work on something independently, and with one another, however, it subtly also gives parents the opportunity to meet each other, to connect and talk.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to do more of that over the summer,” she said.

While she has not held the role at the library long, Gluck said that she has already met so many kind, and generous people.

Her official role at the library as the youth services librarian is working with ages from infancy through 18 years old. In this role, she works in the library, as well as out in the community through outreach.

“In larger libraries the roles are divided because you’re trying to address two different developmental periods,” she said.

As just one person, trying to service a larger group alone, Gluck uses the help of volunteers. She said that she has help from her teen volunteers, otherwise, she is tasked with handling everything else.

Which means it is Gluck who creates the programs the library holds for the age groups, and she is also, with the exception of one group, the one who runs them.

“I try to create some balance and have a little something for everyone,” she said of creating the programming.

She added that she also looks at what the librarians in the other areas of the community are doing, and when they’re scheduling their programs so that they do not have an overlap. She also takes into consideration the schedules of parents, and the feedback they have given her.

“I wanted to have story times for pre-schoolers, so I have a lunch time story time,” she said.

The Rockport Public Library. Souce: File Photo

The lunch-time story time was offered with the idea in mind that anyone attending can eat and have snacks and also listen and sing songs, so that they do not have to schedule their eating time around the program.

“A lot of the thought that goes into it for me is finding developmentally appropriate activities, finding times that are sensible and accommodating to families in this community. Instead of asking them to schedule around me, I am trying to schedule around them,” she said.

All of the programs Gluck has created for school-aged kids are at 4 p.m. so that parents have ample opportunity to pick kids up from school or daycare and get them to the library without needing to rush.

“Most of the events are drop-in so there’s not that digital divide of, you didn’t register so you can’t show up,” she added.

Gluck also tries to have something along the lines of a pajama story time, and holds a program for parents and babies called Bouncing Babies on Saturdays.

She said that the pajama story times has gotten a lot of parents together.

“Usually it’s just mom, or just dad, or just a grandmother or grandfather. To have both parents present for a program is really nice,” she said.

Bouncing Babies, especially for working moms she said she has noticed, weekends are the best times for them to be able to spend time with their children.

“All of this, I’ve only been able to offer for a couple of months because we weren’t able to offer anything from Jan until Mid-March and we’ve been in a pandemic,” she said.

For kids, Gluck always has an art program, as well as a builders program. She also tries to keep a story-walk on the calendar.

“I’m trying to do a story-walk a month going to keep a good partnership with the harbor going and to give some type of passive outdoor activity to do,” she said.

Once a month on Saturdays, Gluck also holds a table at the Guini Ridge Farm’s farmers market. She always holds a story time at the end of the day there.

In that balance of infancy to age 12 there is also the teen programming.

“Teen services tends to fall by the wayside when you have a librarian working with babies, toddlers, preschoolers and school age kids,” she said.

Gluck said that people will hear that teens are not coming into the library, and question why they would need to provide or cater to that age group. As the result, they get a smaller room, less programming, less time, and less incentive to get to the library.

“When to me, that’s the drop off period. Teens and tweens are when reading for pleasure just isn’t encouraged and supported in the same way it is for younger kids who are learning,” she said.

She added that it seems as though once someone is fluent in reading, they are hands off after that.

“I started as a teen librarian and I still love working with teens, because they’re really funny, and smart, and so empathetic,” she said.

Gluck said that many of them are eager to get involved if someone can just tell them how.

“I have an amazing group of teen volunteers here. It’s something concrete that they can contribute to,” she said.

Something that she has heard a lot from teens has been that they do not have a free place where they can go to do their homework, or to play their games.

It pushed her to create programs like Homework Hangout, where youth can come in and have access to a tutor for free. She also created a Makers and Menders program, and holds Tabletop Games Cafe at the end of every month.

Gluck has partnered with 4H, and completed her training through them in order to do the program being offered called STEM by the Sea. 4H partnered her with Hurricane Island for the five-week program for the summer.

It is not just the program creation and operation that Gluck is tasked with. She is in charge of all of the décor and display in the room, as well as the outreach to the local schools which includes the Waldorf and Children’s school, as they do not have formal librarians that they can reach out to.

She curates all of the collection development for infancy through the teenage years, manages the library’s social media accounts, and also has to make sure she is available for desk time for library patrons as well.

Because of this, program creation takes careful planning on Gluck’s part.

She said that she first needs to take into consideration what she has the manpower and time to do. Then she has to factor in the balance aspect, making sure she is balanced out across the developmental age groups that she is trying to serve. From there, it needs to also fit with her desk schedule, and the current outreach work she is doing.

She also focuses on trying to make sure that the times of each of the programs match with what she has been told by parents, and the children, would work for them. Gluck also tries to create programming for types of activities that are useful, but not currently being covered by another community group for free.

“I think librarianship has a lot more project management in it than meets the eye,” she said.

“Doing all of this brings me a degree of joy, and I know what I’m doing to some extent is working.”

Gluck was able to spend time at the elementary school in June, visiting all of the classrooms in each of the grades.

She said that not more than an hour and a half after she returned back to the library that day, a mother and their child came into the library because the child had come home and spoken about Gluck’s visit to the school, and the programs the library was doing.

A new family also attended Lego Club because they had heard about it through their child who learned about it at the school.

“That makes the job worth it,” she said.