Edra Waterman said she loves what a public library means to a community – “It’s a place to go regardless of your financial position or what you look like, to come and get what you need to make your life better.”
“A great community deserves a great library,” she explained. “It’s more than books and movies, at its root it’s a community space – a neutral space – with meeting rooms for community and non-profit organizations and where kids can come after school for tutoring. It’s a great feature and improves the quality of life – expands what you need to succeed. Libraries are an important symbol of a successful and thriving community.”
Waterman’s library career began at the age of 16. While a student in high school, Waterman worked in the Tippecanoe Public Library. As a sophomore at Purdue, Waterman was attending a literature class when a senior classmate talked about attending library graduate school.
“I’ve always been a big reader,” she said. “I knew at that time it was perfect for me.”
After graduating from Purdue, the Boilermaker attended graduate school in Bloomington to earn her masters of library science from Indiana University. Waterman started as a reference librarian at the Anderson Public Library, where she worked her way up to branch manager and assistant library director. Then, she accepted the position as Plainfield-Guilford Public Library Director where she worked since 2007. On Jan. 1, Waterman replaced David Cooper – who retired in 2011 – and became just the fifth Hamilton East Public Library Director in the library’s history, more than 100 years.
“I was very happy in Plainfield, but I was intrigued by the challenges of a library this size in two close, but different communities,” said Waterman. “The staff is very dedicated and the buildings are beautiful and in great condition.”
Just days into her new position, Waterman is splitting time between the Noblesville and Fishers branches. She said her days are spent working side by side with staff members to gain a better understanding of the employees, their roles and the two locations.
“It’s important for me to be at both buildings. We’re not a main library with a branch. We’re two main libraries. I’m learning how they are different and how they are the same,” she said. “You don’t have to come to the Noblesville library if you live in Noblesville, or the Fishers library if you live in Fishers. You can take advantage of the great resources for whatever works for you.”
Library resources include youth services, outreach services and adult programs. Waterman said the youth services include the very popular summer reading program, story time and early literacy programs.
“It keeps kids reading and keeps them engaged,” she said.
Outreach services include computer classes and mobile outreach services, which provide homebound delivery of library items and the adult literacy program – the only program of its kind in Central Indiana that offers one-on-one tutoring, adult basic education, English literacy/English as a second language, life skills and GED tutoring.
“Libraries are all about information. Whether it’s stock prices or non-fiction books, we need to make sure what we are providing is accessible to whatever our guests need,” Waterman said. “For me, it’s absolutely vital we position ourselves to take advantage of technology.”
For residents who use iPods, Kindle, Nooks or other eReaders, HEPL provides thousands of digital books and audio books.
“I haven’t read a paperback book in over a year,” Waterman admitted, adding she recently finished a biography on Ed Sullivan and is currently reading two new releases – “In the Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larson and “Copper Beach” by Jayne Ann Krentz.
HEPL is part of a consortium of libraries that purchase the rights of digital books. The library purchases the rights to a book, and like a physical copy, only one digital book can be checked out at a time. Waterman said residents can use their library cards and PIN numbers (which must be obtained in person at either branch) and download the digital books online with OverDrive via the HEPL website, www.hepl.lib.in.us.
“Last December (2010), our OverDrive use went through the roof,” she said.
Like physical library books, digital copies are available on loan for a set time period. Waterman said when the time ends, those books are no longer available via the electronic device; however, if a person “checks out” the same digital book, it begins right where you left off if the book was not completed.
Waterman’s goal has always been “to bring solid customer service values and a professional commitment to positive change and innovation wherever I am.” She said her focus as library director is improving customer service.
“I want our guests to have a positive experience here and leave with what they needed,” she said. “I look forward to becoming part of a new team of dedicated people committed to finding ways to inspire, create and deliver the most innovative, relevant library services possible.”