When Pat Rutkowski first started working at the New Britain Public Library she was in high school and her job was to shelve books.
“I remember we had so many books that we had to shove books on the shelf. To this day, people do not throw books out. People are always donating them,” said Rutkowski, who has been the library director for nine years. “I was a page and then became a library aid.”
Rutkowski then went to college and moved to the business and processing room. She then worked on magazines and moved to the checkout desk. After library school she went to the reference department.
“I worked here continuously. I’m the guest who never left,” Rutkowski said. “I grew up on High Street, on the other side of Broad Street, so you can see how far I went.”
Rutkowski was going to become a French teacher when she graduated college, but found she liked her work at the library and decided to stay.
“I was ecstatically happy being head of adult services. It was great contact with people,” she said. “Back then, it was a lot of intriguing detective work. I loved to research. We had phenomenal questions every day. Now, people Google stuff.”
Since coming to the library, the biggest change was getting computers in 2002.
“Bill Gates gave us a huge grant and we had to change and have a computer room. Not only did he provide us with computers, but he sent a couple of our librarians to Seattle to be trained,” said Rutkowski. “Before that my first memory of a computer was a MAC in the office area. I didn’t know what to do with it.”
Rutkowski said when computers arrived it changed the whole segment of who came into the library.
“We mostly had educated, knowledgeable readers. Now we had a hook. It brought people into technology who might not have been readers,” she said. “The wonderful thing that happened was we saw people become library users.”
Today, the computer room is full and reservations are needed. It is filled mostly with men.
Another change over the years is allowing people to check out free video games, CD’s, movies, audio books and even guitars.
“We also have hot spots. There are a lot of technological changes. We have so many generations and they all do it differently,” she stated. “We also offer whatever we can to get people in here as long as it is educational entertainment.”
The New Britain Public Library has always had speakers such as Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
The library has been in different locations throughout the City including a room in City Hall. Originally the New Britain Museum of Art was located at a floor in the library before expanding. The Library is part of the New Britain Institute which now includes the Youth Museum, the New Britain Industrial Museum and the library.
The library gets grants, has raffles and puts on fundraisers to raise money. It is also is partially funded by the City as well.
The Friends of the New Britain Public Library also raise funds. Last year they gave the library $21,000 from their used book sale.
The most valuable book the library has are the Journals of Elijah Burritt which are locked up and are not for sale.
“People from all over the United States come here to see and use that journal,” said Rutkowski. “We don’t even know how much it is worth.”
Rutkowski said nowdays books change all the time and older valuable books may not be at the library.
“The library is a City used library, not just one segment of the population uses it,” said Rutkowski. “Our doors are open to everybody.”
There have been programs that work with the homeless. They included coloring, jigsaw puzzles, games, reading, discussions and light snacks.
“It worked out really well,” she said. “It is part of our job to do things for the people. It added a good connection with the staff.”
Typical library users are kids, parents and seniors.
As for the future of the New Britain Public Library, Rutkowski believes it will keep evolving.
“I think we need to meet more outbound than inbound. We need to get staff out into the community,” she added. “Everyone thinks there are books in people’s homes, but there isn’t. People can’t always get to libraries.”
If people cannot get to the library, Rutkowski recommends getting downloadable books and more at http://www.nbpl.info.
The New Britain Public Library is located at 20 High St. It is open Mon. – Thurs. 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Fri. – Sat. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Sundays.