by Deborah Mason
In a world full of ambiguity and doubt, there is one thing that you can know with absolute certainty: new Hamilton Branch Manager Gabby Miller loves her job. From discussing Pratt’s importance to the city to her plans for the Hamilton Branch, Gabby’s enthusiasm for the library is infectious and inspiring.
It isn’t surprising to learn that Gabby wanted to be a librarian ever since her childhood in a small town near Anaheim, California, setting up her own "play" library at home as a child and later volunteering at the real thing as a teen. Gabby eventually moved on to the University of Missouri at Kansas City, where she earned both her bachelor’s degree and her MILS. From there, she thought that she would end up in a university library. But that was before she went to an American Library Association conference and talked to the representatives from Enoch Pratt at the job fair. To make a long story short, Gabby got married, moved out of state, and began a new job as a team librarian at the Northwood branch within the space of four months. Her husband then joined her, and almost immediately found a fulltime job in his field. Everything happened so quickly and neatly that Gabby is convinced that she was destined to be where she is today. Over the past six years, Baltimore has become her home—she and her husband “are crab people now.”
Gabby’s career at the Pratt reflects her boundless energy and passion for public libraries. Programming is especially important to her, and she uses her creativity and research skills to create programs that are not only fun and interesting but have a lasting impact on the community. For example, when she was Assistant Manager at Northwood, Gabby partnered with Cylburn Arboretum to create a seed library that is going strong to this day. Library users can “borrow” seeds, and at the end of the growing season, they save their seeds and return a portion of them to the library. Gabby is also happy to go the extra mile for program participants. For example, after she was named Manager at Washington Village (or, as she likes to call it, the “small but mighty” Washington Village Branch), she started a “Grow Your Own Herb Garden” program. Gabby freely admits to not having a green thumb, but she researched how to grow herbs from seeds. She then spent February to April carefully planting seeds and caring for the seedlings so that everyone could have plants to start their own gardens.
If Gabby sounds like a perfect fit for Hamilton Branch, it might be because her mentor is someone very familiar with it: David Payne, the former Interim Branch Manager and now the Chief of Neighborhood Library Services. Like David, Gabby believes the library should be an anchor to the community and that it must ensure that it remains relevant and useful to its clients. She pointed out that to combat digital inequity, the Pratt continues to provide free Wi-Fi and lend hotspots, pads, and laptops—but it also provides classes (virtually and in person—including Wednesday morning sessions at Hamilton) to help people use these different tools more effectively.
Gabby knows that Hamilton has a great team in place, and the branch has been very successful in getting its community back to the library after it reopened its doors after the shutdown. She is eager to continue building on that success. For example, a new tween librarian will be joining the staff in a month. In the interim, Gabby and Miss Carrie have been working with the kids to build trust and to set standards, building upon the peer-generated norms for behavior they developed with Miss Alayna. One result is the implementation of a “no food” policy. Afterwards, she ordered outdoor tables for the sidewalk in front of the library, making it easier for the kids to comply with the new standard.
Finally, Gabby is very excited to work with the Friends. She would like to relaunch the book club next year, and perhaps a Friends volunteer could play some kind of leadership role. And, of course, Friends would be very welcome to join as members! There are so many ways we could work together, she said, to get big ideas off the ground.
And with Gabby’s leadership, organization, and enthusiasm, I’m certain she’s right.