Wareham's new library director focused on expanding programs, resources

Jan 7, 2019

With help from a new director, the Wareham Free Library is ready to pen its most ambitious chapter yet.

New Bedford resident George Ripley joined the library as its full-time director last month, officially ending a four year journey to recertification by the state’s library network with plans to step up the department’s offerings in the new year.

The library’s former director, Michael Carlozzi, left the position in August 2018 when he accepted a new job at the East Providence Library in Rhode Island.

Carlozzi helped to facilitate the library’s recertification during his tenure after voters defeated a Proposition 2 1/2 override in 2014.

If approved, the override would have provided money for several town agencies by raising property taxes. Without it, the library’s budget was slashed by almost $200,000.

These cuts forced the library to reduce hours, staffing and spending on new materials; but thanks to tireless fundraising efforts carried out by various organizations, the Wareham Free Library rejoined the state’s network on Nov. 1, 2018.

Ripley said he now plans to follow in Carlozzi’s footsteps, reviving old programs and bringing new resources to library patrons.

“I’m still getting to know the community,” he said. “But I think we can only go up from here.”

A Dartmouth native, Ripley has worked in Southcoast libraries for close to 15 years.

He attended high school in Fall River and worked as a park ranger at the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park during college.

Ripley receive his master’s degree in library science from Simmons University in Boston and went on to become a children’s librarian in Plymouth after graduation.

He would later become the manager of the Howland Green Library in New Bedford, facilitating the creation of several successful clubs and outreach programs.

“We had over 80 people show up for a children’s storytime once,” Ripley said. “We were packed wall to wall, and it was amazing.”

Ripley is currently working toward the revival several clubs and programs at the Wareham Free Library which were cut after 2014.

“We want to bring back our book clubs,” he said. “And I’d really like to see the genealogy club revived as well.”

Ripley added that he was also open to working with residents to create new programs and is already looking into the possibility of creating a club for backyard farmers and a seed library. 

“A library is its community,” Ripley said. “So we want to be an accurate representation of our patrons’ interests and needs.”

However, Ripley noted, there’s more to running a library than books and clubs.

His first day on the job in December was an eventful one, with an HVAC pipe in the Historical Commission’s storage closet bursting just moments before he arrived.

“I’m told there was at least four inches of standing water,” Ripley said. “But the staff was absolutely stellar in their response.”

With help from municipal maintenance and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, Ripley said the library was able to save most of the damaged materials, many of which are still being restored at a facility in Northampton.

“Its moments like those where you see the love that people have for this place,” Ripley said. “Despite so much financial hardship, everyone here really is going above and beyond. I’m honored to work with this staff.”

For more information on hours, events and programs at the Wareham Free Library, visit www.warehamfreelibrary.org.