Monica LaVold

Monica LaVold became the Friday Memorial Library director in June 2021.

NEW RICHMOND -- At last, after several unsuccessful searches and nearly 3 ½ years, the city announced the hiring of Monica LaVold as Friday Memorial Library director.

She invites people to get to know her. It turns out, LaVold is not much of a pancake girl.

I will eat pancakes – just with butter only. No syrup, no sugar, nothing sweet, just the pancake and the butter. My absolute favorite breakfast is cheese grits, which absolutely comes from being raised in the South,” LaVold said.

LaVold was born in the Peach Tree state of Georgia. Her mom moved her at age 9 to St. Cloud, Minnesota. From then on, LaVold spent summers in Atlanta and the school year in St. Cloud.

LaVold graduated from St. Cloud State with a degree in elementary education before completing her Master of Library and Information Science degree from St. Catherine University in 2011. Prior to accepting this position, she spent nine years with the River Falls Library serving as youth services librarian.

She is on the fence about extraterrestrial life.

“On one hand, it feels like there is so much possibility out there that there simply has to be life we don’t know about, but on the other hand there are some pretty compelling theories that argue that if there were life, we would already know about it and there is no way it could be kept secret. So, I guess I really wish UFOs were real, but I can’t quite bring myself to believe it,” LaVold said.

Can you say field trip, Elmwood?

LaVold’s Halloween costume resume reads exactly like you might expect from someone who is passionate about books, reading and kids.

“I have been the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Madeline from the Ludwig Bemelmans picture books, Maleficent, and the Queen of Hearts. Once, I put Smarties candies all over my pants, and just went as ‘Little Miss Smarty Pants,’ which might be a favorite,” LaVold said.

LaVold shares her imagination with her husband of 22 years, Tim, and her two sons. 

Era of change

LaVold acknowledged that she is arriving in New Richmond at what could be a profound moment in the library’s history. The concept of a library as a book exchange and as a quiet space reserved for study and research is changing dramatically. LaVold embraces and encourages that evolution.

“Right now, libraries are vibrant, people-oriented, loud, and they serve a hugely diverse array of people in a variety of ways. In the future, I think that libraries will continue on the trend of being a safe space for people to meet – in small or large groups, formally and informally,” she said. 

Libraries also help with technology, bridging the gap in access for people of all ages. She is confident that libraries will demonstrate their value to their communities through flexibility and adaptation, pushing services that go far beyond the walls of the library.

Fundamentally, libraries are now and should continue to be places of connection, LaVold said. The evolving role makes libraries all the more essential to the creation of vibrant, diverse, healthy communities. LaVold calls the connection between a library and all of its community members unique and fundamental to its success.

“Many people, when they hear the word ‘library’ immediately think of books, and it is true that books are a large part of why we exist. But I would argue that libraries are more about people than they are about books. Libraries act as connectors and part of that connection is building relationships,” she said.

“I believe that relationships are the heart of everything we do. We live in a world that is increasingly divided and at times it seems easy to view the world as ‘us’ vs ‘them.’ But it is much harder to see that division when we have built relationships with our friends and neighbors. I believe that libraries are uniquely positioned to build these relationships and connections.”

She said libraries:

  • offer programs that bring people with like interests together

  • offer services that nurture those connections 

  • grow relationships.

“I believe that we start to build true community around the library. In turn, those connections feed and nurture the people in the larger community and people feel heard and supported,” LaVold said.

New library

New Richmond also has spent years discussing the need for a new facility. LaVold recognizes the chance to participate in building a new library might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a challenge that could define her legacy.

“The chance to make new relationships and be a passionate advocate for the library and the wonderful asset it can be in the community is a challenge that I cannot wait to be a part of. I am excited about the opportunity to be a part of building a new building that will serve the needs of this community for many years to come,” she said.

“I see New Richmond as a community that is willing to invest in itself and its future and I hope that carries over to the library.”

If you are looking to impress the new director, she prefers salty over sweet and specifically mentioned barbeque or black pepper & aged cheddar potato chips. It also sounded like your favorite tater tot casserole could earn you some extra points.

Tom Lindfors is a western Wisconsin freelance journalist and former Star-Observer reporter. Contact him at tom@lindforsphoto.com

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