by ERIN ROLL
Peter Coyl has joined the staff of the Montclair Public Library as its new library director.
Coyl is taking the place of David Hinkley, who stepped down as library director late last year. The library Board of Trustees announced Coyl’s appointment in early February, and he officially assumed his new role last week.
The Montclair Local sat down with Coyl on Tuesday morning to talk with him about his work in libraries and what he hopes to bring to the library as its new head of staff.
Peter Coyl: There’s a lot to do. Anytime you come into a new position there’s a learning curve, and there’s some figuring out, but I have excellent staff who are helping me to learn Montclair and to learn this particular library, so I think I’m settling pretty well.
ML: Tell us about your background as a library professional.
PC: I have been in libraries since I was in high school. I started as a page, which is someone who shelves children’s picture books. And I worked my way up, and one of my last jobs in college was a Bookmobile driver. And I drove in the Rochester Hills Public Library in Michigan, I drove the Bookmobile. And I later went to graduate school and I — my first professional job was as a children’s librarian at an international school in Taiwan. And then I was — worked for five years for Dallas Public Library. And one of my most recent roles there was the head of their central library, which is the fourth-largest central library, public central library, in America. So I was responsible for all of the public service staff and programs. And it’s a 646,000-square foot facility. So that’s my most recent role. And so then I left that and I’ve come to Montclair to be the library director here.
ML: How did you hear about the position with the Montclair Public Library?
PC: The director — the board of trustees hired a search firm, a national search firm called Bradbury Miller Associates. And they reached out to me and invited me to apply for the position because they were familiar with me and the work that I’ve done. So I’ve applied, and here I am. I should also say, tangentially to that, when they did, I contacted a friend of mine who is from New Jersey; she attended Montclair State and lived here in Montclair for 12 years. And I told her about the position and I was interested, and she encouraged me to apply and had nothing but great things to say about Montclair and the library.
ML: What made you decide to take the position? Was it the town, or the library, or both?
PC: I of course did my research, online and when I came up for an interview. I was impressed with the charm of the town; I was really impressed with the diversity of the town. And it’s obvious to me that Montclair values its library. It has great community support, a great funding mechanism from the township, active and involved customers and patrons, and that’s very important to me. And I think it’s important for the library to have a community that values it, and it’s very obvious that that’s the case.
ML: What skills or experiences do you hope to bring to the library?
PC: I think I have a — that’s a good question — there is a great foundation to build from. You have a very dedicated and talented staff here that has done a lot of forward-thinking things. Having the Adult School as part of the library is certainly a boon to what we can do and what we can offer the community. So I think the talents and skills that I hope to bring — I hope that I can continue the great work that’s been done here. I think that I can bring a different perspective; there are things that Montclair isn’t doing that it can do. I’d like to increase some of the technology aspects that we have, services for the customers and that sort of thing. I’d like to try and get a scanning system here for the customers to be able to scan and print from.
ML: What are your thoughts on the library’s mission, especially in an increasingly digital world?
PC: I think the library — as the library listens to the needs of the community, it can develop the programs that they’re looking for. I think we can stay at the forefront of technology and I think that’s important. We’ll be embarking on a new strategic plan in the next year. We just finished one last year, and the library accomplished all of the things that it set out to do. And we’ll be engaging a company to do that within the coming year, to develop a new plan for the next three years. And that includes listening sessions and getting feedback from the community. So that’s kind of the direction we’d like to go. Because we really are the community’s library, and we need to offer the services that are enticing to them, and desirable to them. And the best way to do that is to find out what it is they want.
ML: What book or author are you reading at the moment?
PC: You know, I’ve just got my library card, and I haven’t checked out a book yet, I’ve been a little busy settling in. But I do have the two books from the Open Book, Open Mind that we just had [Christina Baker Kline’s “The Orphan Train” and “A Piece of the World”]. I plan to read those, both of those, once I get settled and get a little more free time.
ML: What would you like library patrons and staff to know about you?
PC: That I’m a friendly person, and I welcome feedback and suggestions about the library programs from them. They can send me an email [firstname.lastname@example.org], and I’d be more than happy to hear about their feedback, and I’d love for them to be involved in the strategic plan process as we move forward.
ML: Tell us about yourself a little bit, as a person.
PC: I’m really excited to try all the fantastic restaurants here in Montclair.