Editor’s note: The Easton Courier asked candidates to submit a profile and a statement discussing three top issues facing Easton and how the candidate will help address them. Renee Neiger, Democratic incumbent, Library Board, submitted the following response.
I have always felt very connected to Easton. I grew up in Stratford and frequently visited my cousins who lived here. Every summer we attended the Fireman’s Carnival. In the fall, we picked apples and pumpkins at Silverman’s, and in the winter we’d visit the Christmas tree farms. I’m old enough to remember getting VHS tapes from Greiser’s for family sleepovers and the way the town looked before the new elementary school, community center, and library were built. I love how the town evolved to meet changing needs yet still kept its feeling of community. When my husband and I moved here with our two children six years ago, I knew I wanted to be a part of this community.
I have always loved libraries and believe that serving on the Library Board is a way that I can use my expertise to serve the community. I have a BA in Journalism and English from the University of Connecticut. I worked as a book editor in New York City and Newtown. I left publishing to spend more time with my family and worked part-time as a preschool teacher at a private daycare. In 2019, I accepted a position at Joel Barlow High School as a library paraprofessional. While there, I pursued my Master’s in Library and Information Studies in the school media track from the University of Rhode Island.
To further my library knowledge, I joined the Friends of the Easton Public Library group on which I served for a year as the webmaster and liaison to the Library Board. I then joined the Library Board as an alternate before being appointed to fill a vacancy. I currently serve on the Easton Library Board, the Connecticut Association of School Librarians Board, and I work as a Library Media Specialist at an elementary school in Norwalk.
I am seeking re-election to the Easton Public Library Board of Trustees because I believe in the library’s mission, specifically “connecting people with the world of ideas and information, while remaining responsive to the community.”
One of the most important roles of the library is to provide unfettered access to library materials and services. Education is essential to our democracy and is a lifelong process. Libraries are the one place where individuals can continue learning by having free access to diverse materials, multiple perspectives, and accurate information, which provides them with the tools to think critically about important issues. Trying to remove or restrict library materials restricts one’s freedom, a freedom that is protected by the Constitution. It’s important that our town library feels its mission and vision are supported by the town and by the Library Board of Trustees.
Another important issue regarding our library is making sure that it’s well funded so that it can continue to provide educational opportunities and cost-saving services to the community. The library is so much more than a place to check out books. It is a place to gather and work, as well as attend programs geared toward adults, teens, and children — from children’s story hours, to teen study nights during exams, to book clubs for adults. The library makes technology available to the public, like the use of databases for research, Hoopla and Libby for video streaming and audiobook and eBooks access, and it helps close the gap on the digital divide by allowing patrons to check out hotspots for Wi-Fi access.
At the library, patrons can use their library card to check out passes that provide free or discounted admission to local museums and parks such as The Wadsworth Atheneum, Storm King, or The Beardsley Zoo. The library also brings the community together through its One Book, One Town program, Anne Lindquist Library Spirit Award event, and other programs. The Library Director works closely with the Easton Arts Council, the Friends of the Library, the schools, and other groups to ensure the library provides a wide range of events, activities, services, and programming that benefit everyone. In order to continue to provide these services, offer new programming, and keep up with changing technological needs, the library needs to be well-funded and supported.
To serve on the Library Board of Trustees means advocating for the library and supporting the library’s mission so that it can provide for the needs of the entire community. I became a librarian because I see the library as a place that benefits everyone. I became a Library Board of Trustee member because I want to help our library support our community, and I hope that you will vote for me so that I continue to do so.