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Teaching an Old Library New Tricks
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Technology Meets Community

Campbell came to Newington via a circuitous route. As a University of New Hampshire English major (class of ’90), he worked for three years in the cavernous Dimond Library shelving books. He helped launch the hi-tech E-Coast group back in the early days of the Internet. Campbell worked at a music store and a marketing research firm, but both companies went Chapter 11. (“It wasn’t my fault,” Campbell adds.) He eventually found himself driving a DHL delivery truck – mostly for the exercise, he jokes. He was delivering a computer to the historic Rice Library in Kittery Point when he stumbled onto a part time library job. When the Newington directorship came up in 2007, he signed on. The day he started at Langdon Library, he notes, there was no budget for technology. That quickly changed.

“It’s my mission to drag this library kicking and screaming into the 21st century,” Campbell says. He built the library Web site himself (langdonlibrary.org) and sends out a sharply designed and highly informative newsletter to patrons and the press. The library has its own Facebook page and Campbell has been known to Tweet the whole town when fresh books and DVDs arrive. If he doesn’t think a hot new book is worth buying, he’s not afraid to tell his readers why.

As a tech-savvy librarian, Campbell has no fear of the digital revolution. He offers patrons access to e-readers and expects to see the number of books borrowed electronically to double in 2012. When a library visitor proposed a new e-book by Kittery writer Rodman Philbrick, Campbell whipped out his Kindle and placed an instant order. Sixty seconds later, the book was available for loan to 800 Newington patrons.

Traffic is up, services are expanding, and the future for small libraries, Campbell says, is bright and exciting. That’s the message he will present at the Newington town budget hearing next month.

“You tell me what you want this place to be,” Campbell plans to tell his tight little new Hampshire community, “and that’s what it will become.”

Photos courtesy Langdon Library

Copyright © 2012 by J. Dennis Robinson, all rights reserved. Robinson’s history column appears in the Portsmouth Herald every other Monday and exclusively online at his independent Web site SeacoastNH.com. Robinson is the author of America’s Privateer: Lynx and the War of 1812. His new e-book novella, Kill All the Vampire Writers, is available on Amazon.com.

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