In 2013, Tara Franzetti was living a librarian’s dream. She worked for a well-funded library in a wealthy town in northern New Jersey, and she was about to get a big promotion.
But there was a problem: “People there would be OK if they had no library,” Franzetti says. “I wanted to work with a more diverse population, and provide services to people who really need them.”
She and her husband, Paul, visited Richmond and fell in love with the city. Franzetti got a job working for the Hopewell branch of the Appomattox Regional Library System. Then, two years ago, she began working for the Richmond Public Library as community services manager in the East End branch in Church Hill.
She wanted a challenge, and she found it. Richmond’s libraries are underfunded, and recently endured a new round of budget cuts. Franzetti has no dedicated budget for programming. But with the help of the Richmond Public Library Foundation, the East End Branch Advisory Council and local nonprofits, the library has become a lively place.
Franzetti brought in the Read Center to teach adult literacy, Goodwill to offer computer training, CapUp to coach job applicants and Bon Secours to lead healthy cooking classes. Realizing her branch was the only one in the city without a full-time library associate serving children, Franzetti asked City Council to fund the position.
“She’s taken what could easily be a forgotten corner of a thinly stretched library system, and on a nearly invisible budget created a cornerstone of the neighborhood,” says Colin Rafferty, a member of the advisory council. Franzetti credits her staff and the library’s users. “Our patrons are fantastic people,” she says.
One man used the library’s computers to complete his doctorate online. Some patrons spend hours applying for jobs; others have never used a computer before. Whatever her patrons are struggling with, or hoping to achieve, Franzetti says she wants their time at the library to be the best part of their day.
“If there’s anyone in this community who’s not using the library, I want them to come in once and experience it,” she says. “Every Church Hillian should be like: This is their second home.”