Montague Public Libraries Director Linda Hickman retiring in September

  • Library Director Linda Hickman, seen here in the Carnegie Library in Turners Falls, is retiring at the end of September. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Library Director Linda Hickman, seen here outside the Carnegie Library in Turners Falls, is retiring at the end of September. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 7/30/2021 4:52:29 PM

MONTAGUE — In her 24 years spent working with Montague Public Libraries, Linda Hickman has done everything from bringing in exotic animals as the children’s librarian, to coordinating building repairs as library director, amassing fond memories along the way.

Come the end of September, though, Hickman plans to step away from library work to help care for her 90-year-old father who recently moved to Greenfield. The retirement marks the final chapter of her lengthy Montague Public Libraries career, having spent 17 years as children’s librarian and seven years as director.

Hickman said she’d planned to serve four more years as library director, overseeing the three branches in Turners Falls, Millers Falls and Montague Center. However, her elderly father’s move to Greenfield demanded a reorganization of priorities.

“I’m his primary caretaker,” she explained. “He’s been very helpful to a lot of people, so it’s nice to be able to give back to him.”

This desire to serve has prevailed as a theme for Hickman as she enjoyed her career. She prides herself in her efforts to sculpt “three very welcoming libraries that serve the entire community.”

“One of the things that I love about libraries is that everyone is welcome,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know a lot of library residents.”

Hickman’s experience playing several roles for different libraries means that these connections not only abound, but are diverse in audience. In addition to her work in Montague, she worked for seven years as a paraprofessional school librarian for Erving Elementary School and as a part-time librarian for Jones Library in Amherst. The bulk of her career, however, was spent as children’s librarian for Montague Public Libraries, where she relished the opportunity to tap into the children’s sense of wonder.

“As a children’s librarian, I loved being able to talk about animals and push books,” Hickman recalled.

Hickman, a nature lover who lives on a farm in Wendell, used to bring animals to library events to entertain the children, such as baby tigers, alligators, birds of prey, a wolf and a leopard cub. When she stepped into the role of director, Hickman focused on repairs, air quality issues, enhancing signs and curating multimedia collections.

“These beautiful old buildings could not continue to be used without a lot of different maintenance,” Hickman explained, highlighting that the Montague Center Library, for instance, has “gone from a building that you couldn’t identify as a library to having hand-carved signs with gold leaf.”

In terms of what lies inside each library, Hickman said she’s made great strides in not only expanding the collections of books, but the collections of VHS tapes and DVDs as well. She recalls beginning this process by buying a shopping cart full of VHS tapes from Walmart when she had just started her job as the children’s librarian. Today, Hickman said all three libraries are well-stocked with multimedia content for all ages.

Hickman hopes to see her legacy extend beyond what lies on these shelves. One way in which she sees her influence lasting is through ongoing programming traditions that she started as the children’s librarian. The Montague Public Libraries’ annual Halloween and Valentine’s Day parties consistently draw more than 100 attendees each. Additionally, events like her children’s series “Music and Movement,” which has run for 23 years, continue to occur weekly.

Even with everything she’s accomplished, Hickman wishes she could have done more.

“I have mixed feelings,” Hickman said about retiring. “There’s a lot more that I wanted to do.”

She remains optimistic, however, that the town’s community culture will enable Montague Public Libraries to keep growing.

“Here in Montague, it’s pretty easy to make a big difference,” Hickman said. “There’s so much that can be done in this community.”

Hickman’s successor has not yet been determined. The library trustees discussed the process of evaluating applications for the position during their July 19 meeting. Hickman believes “around five” applicants are now being considered, with the application process remaining open.

The trustees of Montague Public Libraries will hold interviews on Aug. 2, 3 and 5 for candidates applying for the library director’s position.

All meetings will start at 5:30 p.m., and will include executive sessions. Monday’s meeting will be held on Zoom, while the other two will be held at the Gill-Montague Senior Center at 62 Fifth St., according to the respective meeting agendas.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or

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