Get to know... Mallory Arents
DARIEN — Mallory Arents likes to tell people she didn’t start her career in libraries because she likes books, or because she loves information. Rather, the Head of Adult Programming at Darien Library got into the business because she loves people.
In her role, Arents has organized programs that range from author talks, to lectures on the history of hip-hop for seniors, to Pokemon Go excursions. She met with the Darien News on a recent Thursday to discuss her love of libraries, her favorite programs and the increasingly important role that technology is playing at the library.
Q: When did you come to Darien Library?
I have been head of adult programming for about 2 years now. I was originally hired as a reference librarian and kind of came into this spot about 6 months after that.
Q: What kind of programming are you working to bring to the library?
A: We do about 550 programs a year for adults. Those programs are really wide-ranging and we try and touch on every aspect that our community is interested in. So, sure, we host a series of author events. Sure, we host a series of tech classes. But we also do after-hours Nerf blaster capture the flag because we think play is a really important aspect of being an adult.
Q: What sorts of programs do you offer for seniors?
A; We host a monthly series called Senior Moments and that was in direct response to a focus group we did in the library with seniors who noticed that Darien is a great community for aging. There’s a lot of healthy aging programs, the Senior Center, At Home in Darien. There are all these great resources to support seniors in town.
But what they’re missing is programs and events that sparked intellectual curiosity and helped facilitate community building. We want people to meet one another. So we do these monthly programs that are coffee and conversation events that alternate from an academic style lecture to something that’s hands-on learning. Anything to get people meeting one another and thinking outside the box.
One of my favorite things I do here at the library is our introduction to online dating class. The FBI said in 2014 that the biggest internet scam right now is online dating. And can you guess who is being affected? It’s women over the age of 40. Yeah, it’s a little silly and we’re talking about dating, but let’s face it, our world has changed. And if we can put ourselves out there and say, ‘Listen, we’re going to give you to tools to be successful in this,’ that is such a powerful gift you can give to someone.
Q: What has involvement in the community been like since you took over?
A: Working in Darien has been an absolute dream. I work at a great library, but I work in one of the best towns in the country as well. People love their library, they love supporting us in terms of checking out books. We’re one of the busiest libraries in the state.
One thing that has been really fun is stepping into this role in a community that is already looking to learn things outside of the box and to have weird events. So it challenges us to make sure that we’re offering a wide variety of programs as often as we can because people love it.
Q: Did you work in libraries prior to coming to Darien?
A: Before I came to Darien I was in Syracuse, N.Y., studying for my masters degree in library and information science and working at a medical library. So I was working partly in an academic setting helping future doctors, as well as current doctors, doing research. Then the other part of my time was in the children’s hospital, which was really unique because it was this little place where kids would come when they needed a break and they wanted to play video games or their parents wanted to check out a book to read to them. You talk about the impact of libraries and it doesn’t get as immediate as that, so that was a really great place to work.
Q: Did you grow up going to libraries?
A: Yeah, I’m lucky that my mother is the most voracious reader I’ve ever known, maybe only second to Jen Dayton, our head of collection development. I grew up going to the public library with her and always had a really great relationship with librarians through school and things like that. I was definitely one of those nerdy kids that took her lunch in the library.
Q: More difficult to draw kids out with the ubiquity of technology?
A: One thing I always say to people who ask things like that is that technology has always been a part of libraries. The technology used to be books. Libraries used to be where knowledge lived and where it was sacred. The first libraries actually kept their books chained to the shelves because they were so precious. Now with the advent of this digital world we’re living in, it only makes sense for us to inject ourselves in that space as well. I think our library does a really good job at offering tech lists and also a lot of tech programs.