New Baldwin City Library director wants to collaborate with downtown businesses, organizations

photo by: Elvyn Jones

Wendy Conover stands in the stacks of the Baldwin City Library on Nov. 10, 2019. Conover started her duties as director of the library in late October.

The new director of the Baldwin City Library hopes she can build stronger bridges with other institutions in the community — including her former employer, the Lumberyard Arts Center.

Wendy Conover started as library director last month. She replaces Cheryl Sylvester, who left the Baldwin City position to become director of the Oskaloosa Public Library.

Conover is no stranger to the Baldwin City Library. She worked there part-time before she became the coordinator of the Lumberyard Arts Center in 2017, and while she was at the Arts Center, she coordinated with library staff to provide art-related activities for kids after the library’s Wednesday summer reading programming.

And over the past summer, she said, the Arts Center and the library partnered to offer a summer lunch program for children.

“The Baldwin Academy of Dance and Voice was involved, too,” she said. “We all took different days of the week so kiddos could get a free, healthy lunch every day of the week.”

Now that Conover is in charge at the library, she wants to offer even more activities in partnership with downtown businesses and organizations, including the Arts Center and the Baldwin Recreation Commission.

“I think there are exciting possibilities for the benefit of downtown and the community,” she said.

While Conover said she is most passionate about children’s programming, she expects to introduce more activities for all ages.

“We are fortunate to have a great staff offering great programming,” she said. “We are looking to add more as I get settled in. Our adult programming includes trivia night, and we had a local business, Jitters, come over to have a coffee tasting. We are looking to do more things like that and branch out and grow in ways I don’t even know yet.”

Conover has a bachelor’s degree in English from Baker University and a master’s in counseling from the University of Kansas. She has authored a number of children’s books, written freelance articles for local publications and produced material for elementary-school reading tests.

“People always asked when I was at the Lumberyard if I was an artist,” she said. “I told them I was a writer. That is a different kind of artist.”

Conover acknowledged that some aspects of running a library are completely new to her, and that she’ll have to learn as she goes. She said she is fortunate to have a knowledgeable staff and the support of the Baldwin City Library Board, and she is also reaching out to the Northeast Kansas Library System as she gets started in her role.

”They are a great resource,” she said. “I’m going to meet with them this week.”

Ultimately, Conover said, her goal is to listen to residents and become a long-term resource for Baldwin City.

“I feel really fortunate to get the backing of the staff and board and to have the opportunity to use my skills in ways that are really exciting to me,” she said. “In the two weeks I’ve been here, I had the opportunity to help a gentleman looking for a job. I was able to help him with a few things like converting files on the computer that helped him get the job. Those are (the) kinds of experiences that make the job so rewarding.”


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