With over 25 years of experience in libraries, Bridget Quinn-Carey ’93G ‘15MBA has taken the helm of the Hartford Public Library as director. Her leadership vision -- which has been featured in Hartford Magazine’s “Fresh Faces, New Ideas: Leaders Invested in Hartford’s Future” and in the Hartford Business Journal -- involves strengthening community partnerships to improve access and services to a diverse population.
Previously, Quinn-Carey was interim president and CEO of the Queens Library from 2014-2016, and COO of that institution from 2011-2014. She has also been director of both the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library and Essex Library Association Public Library, interlibrary loan coordinator with the Connecticut State Library, and librarian with three different rural public libraries in Iowa, where she lived while her husband was attending law school. “Working in these small rural Iowa libraries was a wonderful experience,” said Quinn-Carey. “I never thought my life would go there, but it really showed me the ways that different libraries work in different communities.”
She sees many similarities between the populations served by both the Queens and Hartford libraries and their needs, although Queens is much larger. Hartford, like Queens, has a large immigrant population, and both library systems share challenges that include literacy, access to digital resources, and early learning. “I was very happy in Queens,” said Quinn-Carey. “It’s an amazing library system. Queens feels like the center of the universe with people coming from all over the world to be there. That position gave me an appreciation of many different cultures and an ability to assess the changing needs and dynamics of a community. It taught me the importance of a community-based approach and the importance of early learning services, which really have an impact.”
Quinn-Carey came to SJU for her Master of Library Science degree (now the Master of Science in Library and Information Science) after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English from SUNY Binghamton. She initially wanted to work in publishing, but decided that library and information science was more relevant to a changing information landscape. For her, a master’s degree in library and information science was “an enhancement of my liberal arts degree, and a mission to maintain the access to information that people need. Libraries are still critical for our democracy in terms of making information available to all.”
She has been in the enviable position of growing her career just as libraries themselves continue to evolve into new roles. “It’s the most fascinating time to be in libraries,” she said. “There’s a unique role for every library in every community. Our job is making sure we have our pulse on the community and appreciating all the different ways libraries can be impactful in the community’s ever-evolving dynamic.”
Quinn-Carey urges those interested in pursuing a library career to remain open to new ideas and to diversify their exposure to library settings. “What has served me really well is my willingness to go to different kinds of organizations and gain broad experience in different kinds of communities and library structures,” she said.
As for the relevance of libraries in an online world, Quinn-Carey isn’t worried. “Our print circulation has leveled off,” she said. “There are still some things you can’t do on a mobile device. And the library plays an important role in each community as a public space where you can be around other people and can either choose to be engaged or to use the space for their independent work and reflection; whatever they need, when they need it, in one location.” With this attitude – and a demonstrated record of success behind her – Quinn-Carey is one of the visionary leaders heralding a bright future for America’s libraries.