WEST PITTSTON — The West Pittston Library isn’t just a place for book and movies, it’s a place that offers various programs and, more importantly, endless hours of laughter.
Those features are courtesy of its director Anne Bramblett who spent the last eight years helping to shape the library into what it is today.
”My favorite part of my job is that we laugh every single day,” she said. “Whether it’s with the staff members or the patrons coming in, we just have a lot of fun.”
Unfortunately, Bramblett, 41, won’t be around much longer to continue her work as she will step down as the library’s director in January to work for the Austin Public Library in Austin, Texas.
From incorporating more programs to rebuilding the library after the flood of 2011, Bramblett not only had a signigicant impact on the library, but on the community, as well.
A Virginia girl
Bramblett graduated from West Springfield High School in Springfield, Virginia in 1994 and attended James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia for Education.
She later attended the University of New Hampshire, received her Masters Degree in Literature and then earned her Masters in Library Science from Clarion University.
“I thought I wanted to be a college professor and I ended up being an instructor at the University of New Hampshire for four years,” Bramblett said. “I loved teaching, but it just wasn’t the perfect fit.”
She moved to West Pittston 12 years ago when her ex-husband accepted a job at King’s College.
Bramblett worked at MMI Prepatory School in Freeland doing fundraising, but the position of director of the West Pittston Library caught her attention.
“West Pittston in general is a little idyllic town,” she said. “The idea of working within walking distance of a cute public library was really attractive.”
When Bramblett first came on as director, she sat down with her staff and got to know them, as well as asked them what they liked about the library and about their position.
One thing she noticed, however, was the lack of programs.
“We had an adult book club that met once a month that kind of ran itself, and we had storytime once a week and the summer reading program,” she said. “I saw the potential for this to be much more of a community center and having a lot of different, interesting, enriching, and educational programs.”
One month into her new position, Bramblett hired Summer Belles to be the Youth Services Coordinator, a position Belles still holds today.
“I had never been in this position and it didn’t exist before I started,” Belles said. “I think the director did both roles in the past, so neither of one us knew what should be done. We were kind of figuring it out together, and she trusted my judgment and believed in my creativity. It just flowed.”
Belles knew Bramblett prior to her hiring and said she originally inquired about the youth services coordinator position for her mom, but her mom said it was something for which she was better suited.
“I applied and the rest is history,” Belles said.
Children’s programs include LibLab, Kindergarten Readiness and other seasonal activities.
Adult programs have varied over the years, but Bramblett will always remember fondly the Year of Beer event held in 2015.
Programs included a lecture on fermentation, which discussed various yeasts found in beer, a course on the history of beer, a blogger discussing craft brewing, a beer doctor discussing the health benefits of beef, and a summer beer academy where participants learned to make beer.
“I saw this resurgence of interest in craft beer starting to infiltrate the valley, and I wanted to tap into that,” she said. “I hit the interests of so many people.”
The flood of 2011
Bramblett’s tenure as the West Pittston Library Director wasn’t all smooth, as she was forced to deal with the aftermath of the Agnes Flood of 2011.
Water made its way into the library, to the tune of four feet, and was so powerful it moved book shelves from one side of the room to the other.
When the water receded, Bramblett inspected the damage herself and feared for the future of the library.
“I remember lying in bed and crying, not because of how disgusting the flood water was or the amount of work it would take, but because I thought what if the town says ‘why bother rebuilding the library?’” she said.
Fortunately, the entire Wyoming Valley came through by raising funds and making donations.
Bramblett said the Luzerne Foundation set up a fund for the library and raised over $25,000.
Although damaged, the library went about its business at the former Blockbuster store in the Insalaco Shopping Center in October.
“Everything that we reopened with was donated to us by other libraries,” Bramblett said. “We sent out an email all across the state, saying we were looking for tables, shelving, and whatever people could give us.”
The current location on Exeter Avenue reopened in February 2012, and Bramblett said residents were thrilled to have it back.
“We had people waiting outside the door,” she said. “It just felt great to be home.”
A new opportunity
Bramblett will depart from the West Pittston Library in January, having taken a job as Managing Librarian of the Austin Public Library.
She visited friends in that area, and fell in love with the scenery.
“On a whim, I checked the American Library Association’s job list and saw a position with the Austin Public Library,” Bramblett said. “I applied, did not think I had a chance, but I went out to interview and I really liked their library. They have a new director, and he just has a great vision for the Austin Public Library.”
The hardest part, however, was telling her staff she is leaving.
While they all took the news in stride, Belles said they’re sad to see their boss, but more importantly, their friend, leave.
“I was shocked and I still have a really hard time processing it,” she said as she choked back tears. “It’s just been difficult to imagine her not being here. It was out of the blue and we didn’t know she went looking and went for an interview. It’s entirely her prerogative; she didn’t have to answer to us. I’m sad to see her go because it’s always been the two of us. We had other employees come and go, but it’s always been the two of us.”
Circulation Desk Coordinator Maria Jiunta-Heck, another close friend of Bramblett’s, was heartbroken by the news.
She said Bramblett has to do what’s best for her, though.
“I cried, but I think it’s the right choice for her,” Jiunta-Heck said. “I’m losing one of the best friends I’ve ever had, but she’s gone through so many changes the last few years, and I think she touched down in West Pittston and did all she was able to do. It’s time for her to spread her wings.”
With only a few weeks left until she departs, Bramblett and her staff are seeking to make the best of the time they have left.
“I have a month to terrorize her a little more, so that will be a blast,” Jiunta-Heck said “We’ll continue to have fun, and I’ll be devastated when she leaves. If I didn’t think this would be the best thing for her, I’d be more devastated. But, I’ll visit her.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher