New director of the Colfax Public Library: Lisa Bragg-Hurlburt
By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Lisa Bragg-Hurlburt, the interim director at the Colfax Public Library, has been hired as the new director of the library.
The Colfax Public Library board offered the position to Bragg-Hurlburt following a closed session February 10.
Lisa Ludwig, former director of the Colfax library, retired December 31.
Bragg-Hurlburt was among a half dozen candidates that the Colfax Public Library board considered and interviewed for the position.
She officially started her position as director of the library February 15.
“Our new director brings library experience, a passion for reading, and a clear vision for the future of our library. We are fortunate that she has accepted the position. Welcome, Director Lisa Bragg-Hurlburt!” wrote Lori Halpin, a member of the Colfax Public Library board, in an e-mail sent to the Colfax Messenger the next morning after Bragg-Hurlburt accepted the position.
Bragg-Hurlburt served as the circulation librarian for two years at the Colfax library before becoming director of the library.
“A library is a wonderful resource for a community. I want people to feel like this is their library. That they get to be a part of what we are, of how we evolve. I’ve got a suggestion box. I want people’s ideas. I’ve been getting people’s ideas. I want that back and forth. I want people to feel like this is their place. And I want us to have a lot to offer them,” Bragg-Hurlburt said.
“I love that because we are a small library, we get to form that personal connection with people. I love that we know the people who walk in the door. Sometimes it’s new people. I think we have a friendly, warm and welcoming atmosphere here,” she said.
Bragg-Hurlburt and her family live in the Town of Colfax. She and her husband, Jon, have been married for 20 years, and they have three children, all of whom attend school in the Colfax school district.
Bragg-Hurlburt is originally from Rhinelander. She moved to Eau Claire in 1987 and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Religious Studies and Philosophy from UW-Eau Claire.
She is a member of the Town of Colfax plan commission and also serves on the Dunn County Zoning Board of Adjustment.
“I think we provide an important resource for people with the WiFi and the computers here at the library,” Bragg-Hurlburt said.
“People come in if their printer runs out of ink, or if their computer at home is having problems. People use it for those reasons. But there’s a whole other segment of people who don’t have a computer or who don’t have WiFi in their homes. And they need to connect to jobs through our computers. They can apply for work. They can read job postings. Most applications you need to provide an e-mail address,” she said.
“Thanks to public-access computers, everyone can participate in that part of society. We’re totally willing to help people, elderly people or people who are just not comfortable using computers. We are willing to help them find their way around and do what they need to do, and to see how easy it has become to use computers,” Bragg-Hurlburt said.
The public-access computers at the library also address another need for the Internet in rural areas: access to high-speed Internet. As many people in living in rural areas are acutely aware, high-speed Internet simply is not available, and there are certain uses for the computer, such as viewing a how-to video, that require high-speed Internet. Sending and receiving pictures also requires a certain amount of Internet speed.
“We have headphones so people can watch videos quietly without disturbing anyone,” Bragg-Hurlburt said.
“I’ve worked here for a couple of years, so most of our patrons already know me. I think that’s another good thing I have to offer, that continuity. I’m already a part of the team here,” she said.
It’s no secret that the Colfax Public Library is short on space. At a little over 1,200 square feet, it is only about one-fourth of the square footage that an architect would recommend for a new library in Colfax.
“We have a small space to work with, but I think it’s a warm and inviting space. I appreciate the historical connection we have to this building and to the community. I’d like to play that up by having historical exhibits here and inviting local speakers to share their historical knowledge,” Bragg-Hurlburt said.
For example, as part of Bragg-Hurlburt’s outreach to local historians, Colfax resident Susan Hill set up a display at the library for the month of February with some of Hill’s collection of antique Valentine’s Day cards and other materials.
“I look at it as sometimes when you are given a limitation it becomes an asset because you really have to work with what you have. I think if we use our space carefully and emphasize to people our connection to the MORE system, the library will be better off. We don’t have a lot of space to house a ton of material, but we are part of that library system. From the comfort of their homes, people can order books, movies, music and within the space of a few days have it delivered to this library for easy pick-up,” Bragg-Hurlburt said.
MORE stands for “My Online Resource,” and is a consortium of libraries in Western Wisconsin sharing resources totaling more than a million items. Library patrons can search the online catalog to find materials at any of the member libraries. You can order books and other materials through MORE, and the items are shipped to the Colfax library for you.
More than 50 libraries are in the MORE system, including Eau Claire, Rice Lake, New Richmond, Hudson, Chippewa Falls and River Falls, as well as smaller libraries such as Sand Creek, Boyceville, and Glenwood City.
“In that sense we are not limited. I think we have lots of possibilities here. I definitely look forward to working with local historians, the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group, and all the groups to bring together these neat exciting things we have around here and provide people with access. I see the library as a hub for that. The center of the community. Right in downtown, in an historic building. So let’s work with what we have. It’s beautiful,” Bragg-Hurlburt said.
Bragg-Hurlburt says she plans to promote the MORE system at the resource fair at Colfax High School on February 22. The MORE system can provide materials for research papers, study guides and even textbooks.
And if the material is not available through MORE, it is more than likely available through WIScat, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s resource sharing platform for interlibrary loans connecting all libraries in Wisconsin.
“A lot of people wonder if reading is a big thing anymore or whether reading is important. I do hear that,” Bragg-Hurlburt said.
“I would say more than ever reading is important. Even if you think about our use of the Internet, people have to read and write to use the Internet. If you read books, the more you read, the better you become at it. And you become a better speaker and a better writer,” she said.
“You can learn new skills through reading. I think reading gives everyone a huge advantage in life. Not just young people, because you can keep reading as you get older. It teaches you about other points of view,” she said.
“We get all ages here.That’s the other neat thing. Young kids and their moms. Independent teenagers. All the way up the age spectrum. We have things to offer. Audio books. Visually impaired people come in and use them. We have large print. The Colfax Health and Rehab Center has really been taking advantage of the MORE connection. Every week we order materials for them. We try to help and accommodate,” Bragg-Hurlburt said.
“I want to have an open door feeling here. I want people to come in and say hello and give me their ideas,” she said.
So, the next time you are in downtown Colfax, stop by the library just to say “hello” and to see what the library has to offer.
Bragg-Hurlburt and the other library staff would love to see you.