Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Batesville Public Library’s new head librarian, Hanna Lee (left), talks with Iesha Chapman who is studying for an exam. The Panolian photo by Rita Howell

Getting to know you: Batesville’s new librarian aims to focus on interests, needs of local community

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By Rita Howell

Hanna Lee wants to get to know you.

The new manager at the Batesville Public Library comes from Princeton, N.J. with impressive credentials…and a determination to tailor the local library’s services to fit the needs of this community.

“I’m interested in talking with people and finding out what their needs and interests are, to see how we can serve them,” she said.

Lee, who came to work in the First Regional Library system August 17, has followed her husband, Dr. Zachary Kagan-Guthrie, to the South. He is a teacher in the history department at the University of Mississippi.

The new librarian holds an M.A. degree from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Rutgers. 

She has been a Youth Services Librarian; a classroom teacher, teaching language arts to 7th through 9th grade students, and an instructor for English as a second language. As part of her work at the Princeton Public Library, she oversaw an afterschool tutoring program. 

She was recognized by the American Library Association as one of a handful of Emerging Leaders in 2014 for her work at Princeton Public Library and elsewhere. 

“I loved my old public library (in St. Louis) when I was growing up,” she said. 

Though she started out after college as a classroom teacher, she seemed to find herself drawn to the school’s library, whether that was in Baltimore or Mozambique, where she taught for a time at the American International School.

She decided to get serious about library science, and enrolled in the MLIS program at Rutgers University, then went to work at the Princeton, N.J. Public Library, while her husband was attending Princeton University.

Though the Princeton and Batesville communities are quite different, she said, “in terms of the way the people love and support their library, things are very similar.”

Figures from the First Regional Library support her conclusion. Last year, 7,056 people attended free programs sponsored by the Batesville Public Library. Participants in the 2015 Summer Library Program totaled 2,846 young people.

Batesville saw an increase of 49 percent more library cards issued last year. And patrons used the free access computers 38,085 times.

“There are services we offer that many people don’t know about,” she said, mentioning copy and fax machines, and e-books that can be downloaded free.

In addition to its role as a source of books, Lee hopes people will come to share resources as well, like swapping cake pans or jigsaw puzzles.

“We want everyone to think, ‘that’s my library.’”

Friends in the right place

When Hanna Lee got to Batesville, she was greeted by a group of the library’s best friends.

The Friends of the Batesville Public Library have been active for several decades, raising funds to provide equipment, books and materials not otherwise in the budget.

“The ice machine is the envy of the First Regional system,” she laughed, mentioning the commercial grade ice maker purchased by the Friends for use by groups who meet at the library.

“We are very, very lucky to have the friends that we have,” she said, “and to have a town that supports and reinvests in the community that way.”


Lee joins six other staff members at the Batesville Library: Carol Bland, Rolanda Chapman, Beth Goudy, Janet Michal, Sara Rapert and youth specialist Angie Wells.