Book Worm

Library Director Lina Podles is living her life’s dream

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Photo by Max Ryazansky
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Photo by Max Ryazansky
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Photos by Victor M. Rodriguez
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Photos by Victor M. Rodriguez
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Photo by Max Ryazansky
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Photo by Max Ryazansky
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Photos by Victor M. Rodriguez
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Photos by Victor M. Rodriguez

The Hoboken Public Library, at Fifth Street and Park Avenue, is a stately, century-old building. The stacks hold classics as well as new releases, but beyond the aisles of books the library is a part of the Hoboken community.

Library Director Lina Podles is in charge. Podles began working as Director of the Hoboken Public Library in 2001. She started her career in New York in 1991.

“I first thought of becoming a librarian, had always loved libraries, loved reading,” Podles says. But she first imagined herself working behind the scenes in technical services or cataloging. “When I applied for the position at the New York Public Library, they recognized me as a people person and persuaded me to take a career path in public service.”

She took the job, working her way up the New York Public Library’s ladder. That prepared her to assume the director title in Hoboken.

“I had great mentors who encouraged me to grow, to think big, and to believe in myself,” she says. Library Director is a perfect fit. “Being a leader gives me a great opportunity to form a vision, to design, to interact with the community, and to inspire staff.  It is also very inspiring to be able to see how the library is changing, how the community loves their library, and how we are able to change and to grow with time.”

Beyond the Building

The library has seen plenty of change during Podles’s tenure as director. “The library has grown tremendously,” she says. “Our circulation has quadrupled, we brought many programs, opened a branch in the multi service center. We expanded the hours and now are open every day of the week. We have truly become a community hub, established a great relationship with many community organizations.”

The library has expanded its presence in the community by creating new spaces outside the main building. This gives access to library books and services for those who might struggle to get to the main branch.

“I am very proud of our relationship with the Hoboken Housing Authority, as we have library corners in several senior buildings and most recently opened a learning center,” Podles says. “Our motto is to go out to the community, to partner with other organizations, and to look for alternative ways to deliver library services.”

Moving on Up

Next on the agenda is finding a suitable location for an uptown library space, which patrons have been requesting  for quite a while.

Last year, the Hoboken Public Library acquired two townhouses next to the main branch.

“Eventually, I would like to see a new library annex connected to the main building, with greater space for large programming, more smaller self-study spaces for tutoring and small business meetings,” Podles says. “I also would like to see those spaces equipped with modern technology, so our residents are able to feel connected to the world.”

Work is also underway in the main building. The plan is to improve and preserve the space with a complete renovation of the third floor and replacement of the HVAC system. “The library building is beautiful, but it is also 125 years old, Podles says. “It had many years of deferred maintenance, which we are trying to address now. We also have a responsibility to preserve its historical significance, but also make it attractive and responsive to the twenty-first century.”

Keeping Up

The library has to keep pace with Hoboken and all its changes. “Hoboken definitely grew, became even more beautiful,” she says. “I really like the mix of the old historical building and the growth of the city with modern buildings. There is a great emphasis on quality of life, which is especially appealing to me, as the library plays a crucial role in the quality of life of the city’s residents. I enjoy the diversity of people and their interests, which is especially appealing and challenging for the wide areas of services I feel we need to provide.”

Those services are for everyone in Hoboken, which means that ongoing library programs include everything from story time for preschoolers and senior library card signup events to ESL and literacy programs.

The library also includes a Makerspace with a variety of digital resources. “We have a very robust Wi-Fi, offer laptops and e-readers, IPads, mobile printing, and great acoustical equipment for programs,” Podles says. This makes the library a popular hangout for teenagers who enjoy programs like Girls Who Code and use the Makerspace’s 3D printer.

“The beauty and the special value of library services lies in the fact that we are serving everyone,” Podles says. “Seniors, babies, young people, and those in the middle.”—07030