By Ron Hayes
For nearly 23 years, Sid Patchett devoted himself to seeing the Lantana Public Library shine in quality where it couldn’t compete in quantity.
Five days a week, from September 1996 when he became its director until shortly before his death last Sept. 18, Patchett drove from his home in Miami’s Coconut Grove to 205 W. Ocean Ave., determined to honor the mission he’d placed on the library’s website.
“A Place For Serious Readers.”
“We don’t stock multiple copies of the bestsellers,” he would say without apology. “We use our limited budget to create the thinking person’s library. We’ll get just one copy of a new Stephen King, and then we’ll get, say, The Princeton Guide To Evolution.”
Now the library Sid Patchett loved and led is evolving.
On Nov. 13, Kristine Kreidler began her first day as its new director. She didn’t have to drive from Miami.
Kreidler, 38, was born in Lantana. She attended Lantana Elementary School, Lantana Middle School and Santaluces High School. She still lives in town.
“I want a community library where people of all backgrounds and ages feel welcome,” she said recently. “Think about it. A library is still one of the few places where you’re not expected to buy anything.”
Her first week at work, she was off to Tallahassee to attend the Florida library directors meeting. In early December she was back, but still settling in.
Waiting to be explored on her desk were the three large file boxes her predecessor had labeled “Urgent” and “Less Urgent.” On her computer, she found the letter she’d written back in 2010, applying for an internship at the library she now leads.
“I didn’t get it, and I never met Sid,” she recalled. “But the more I find out about him, the more I wish I’d met him. I don’t know how he drove from Miami for so long. I had trouble driving to Boca Raton.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in English and women’s studies from Florida Atlantic University and a master’s in library and information science from Florida State University — and failing to receive that internship here — Kreidler began her career with a year’s internship at the Broward County African American Library and Cultural Center, then became the youth services librarian at the Boynton Beach City Library from 2011 to 2019.
She comes to Lantana from the Boca Raton Public Library, where she supervised 17 employees and saw 45,000 patrons attending youth programs in a single year.
“This is my dream job,” she said. “I get to be the boss, but the library’s small enough that I can also interact with the patrons on a daily basis. Most library directors don’t get to do that.”
Yes, the library is small, but it’s growing. When Patchett was interviewed by The Coastal Star in February 2015, he counted about 23,000 volumes on the shelves. Kreidler arrived to find 24,194.
In 2015, the annual budget was $170,000. Today, it’s $217,000, including $20,000 for purchasing new books.
Now Kreidler is eager to bring a younger, more expansive vision to the library’s mission.
“Sid marketed us as a library for serious readers,” she said. “But are serious readers really coming here?” To find out, she plans to sponsor community surveys and focus groups. She wants to ask the library’s patrons, “What do you want?”
What she wants is the best of all worlds.
“I see lots of kids and teens walking by here,” she said. “Our children’s collection needs work, and I’m going to create a young-adult collection.”
The library has only two computers for public use. Kreidler wants more.
“I’d like to create a digital studio for teens, where they could use Photoshop and be more content creators instead of just passive consumers.”
She envisions working with AmeriCorps volunteers and perhaps the Friends of the Library’s 175 members to offer free GED training, homework help and English language classes.
She wants to start a children’s story time.
And she plans to order books based on patrons’ requests and suggestions from the online Booklist, in which the American Library Association recommends upcoming titles.
“I think our strength lies in our size and our neighborhood library status,” she said. “We’re walkable for so many, our staff knows you by name and what you enjoy, so we can recommend books you might like and anticipate your needs. We’re a small municipal library so we have more flexibility in responding promptly to patron requests for materials or programs.”
In short, Kristine Kreidler wants the Lantana Public Library to be a place for all readers, young and old, serious and not so serious.
“I don’t know if I’ll follow Sid’s philosophy,” she said. “If there’s a new Stephen King novel, I might buy two or three copies.”
For more information, call 561-540-5740 or visit www.lantanalibrary.org