Teamwork defines Gleason Library’s Board of Trustees

by Cynthia Sorn

Members of the Gleason Library Board of Trustees (left to right) Larissa Shyjan, Thornton Ash and Steve Golsen stand behind Library Director Katie Huffman. (Photo by Cynthia Sorn)

The Gleason Public Library is a daily destination for many Carlisle residents and that’s just the way the library trustees like it to be. The library is overseen by three trustees: Chair Steve Golson, Treasurer Larissa Shyjan, and Secretary Thornton Ash. The Mosquito chatted with the trustees during their recent February meeting. Shyjan and Ash are in the middle of their terms and Golson’s term comes to an end this year. He confirmed he will be running for re-election in May. 

The trustees lead the library in many ways, by hiring the library director, developing the budget with the director, setting policy and generally supporting the library in ongoing functions and new initiatives. Though the trustees meet just once a month, they are also on the premises for a variety of events and activities, including using the library like every other resident. The trustees rotate their positions each year. Ash, as Secretary, will be moved to Treasurer next, and the following year will serve as Chair. They stressed that their teamwork is the cornerstone of what makes the job so rewarding. For example, during a recent meeting they discussed pros and cons of roof repair, easily sharing ideas and advice with Library Director Katie Huffman. 

Trustees support library staff 

Asked what they see as priorities this year, all members answered that supporting the staff is their first priority. “We don’t plan big changes this year,” said Golson. “We will be supporting and helping the staff.” Golson said they have worked hard to increase many of the staff to full time. Huffman is in her second year, replacing Angela Mollet. “We can’t say enough about Katie,” said Golson. Shyjan agreed, noting that they knew it would be challenging to find a replacement for Mollet, who served as director for nine years. “We’re so pleased how things have worked out,” said Golson, adding that everyone is excited about Huffman’s ideas and energy. 

Building maintenance a priority 

Another priority is keeping the focus, including water leaks in the roof, water damage from the frozen pipes, and the septic system. It’s not easy to keep a 118-year-old building in perfect shape. 

According to the history information on the Gleason’s website, the original front part of the library was completed in 1896 after the town received a donation of $6,000 from Sudbury resident Joanna Gleason, who originally resided in Carlisle (the land the library sits on cost $500). The library was designed by George G. Adams of Lawrence and built by general contractor D. W. Fitch of Billerica. In the 1970s, it became clear that the library needed more room. A moderately sized addition was added to the back of the library in 1973. A larger, redesigned renovation was completed in 2000. 

Shyjan noted the building is “by far the most popular in town.” She added, “The townspeople use the building more than the Town Hall. It is most important for all of us.” Just about every day there is a library-sponsored event at the library (sometimes events are held at Union Hall). For example, during the rest of February there’s a family movie, conversations about energy assessments, poetry reading, drop-in crafts, a presentation on “Discovering New England Stone Walls” and three story times. See the Gleason calendar at for more information.

Library hours 

When asked if the trustees were considering changes to library hours, Golson said that they are not. He explained that a few years ago the library received donations to open the library on Sundays, but the experiment proved that the Sunday hours were not as popular as they expected. The cost of having the staff in an extra day did not match the use of the building. Golson said that they have instead extended hours on Saturdays and found it very popular and easier on the staff, since they were already on the premises.  

“Kids want to have fun.”

The trustees were asked about student use of the library on occasional Tuesday afternoons, which are early-release days for Carlisle School students. There has been some discussion in the Mosquito via Letters to the Editor about the noise the students make while in the library. Each month Carlisle School students are released before lunch to provide a professional development afternoon for the staff. At times more than 50 middle school (and some younger) students gather at the library, explained Huffman. 

When the weather is fine they enjoy lounging outside but in the winter they gather in nooks and crannies in the library. The noise levels rise and fall and can be disturbing to some adults using the library. Huffman said that she and her staff address noise problems when they occur and very rarely have had to ask a student to leave. 

Huffman stressed that she welcomes the students and feels it is good to encourage kids to use the library, though she sympathizes with adults who are disturbed by the noise and activity. Golson agreed but added, “But let’s put it in perspective.” During the cold weather, he said, “It is one Tuesday afternoon, once a month, or maybe five times a year.” He said the students typically stay until 3 or 4 p.m. Students use the computers, gather downstairs or upstairs to read or quietly talk. Students are not allowed to eat in the library, but the staff offers a movie on the third floor which draws them away from the main floors. “The movie is popular,” said Huffman. They are allowed to bring food to the movie and additional snacks are offered.

“This is a great building,” said Golson. “Kids want to have fun and we accommodate them.” Shyjan agreed. “We are all blessed to be responsible for something so popular in the town.” ∆