WATERVILLE — Sarah Sugden grew up in Waterville, loving the Waterville Public Library.

She worked there as a teenager, and after working at libraries from Arizona to Massachusetts, she came home to Waterville, becoming the library’s director in 2005.

Now the library’s patrons and community leaders have shown her they love her back.

A new business and career center, renovations of the library building and an always positive and welcoming attitude are just some of the things Waterville residents and officials cited in nominating Sugden for a national award recognizing librarians who have made an impact in their communities.

On Tuesday, Sugden was in New York City to be recognized as one of 10 finalists to receive the I Love My Librarian Award, sponsored by the Carnegie Corp. of New York and The New York Times.

More than 1,000 librarians around the country were nominated, according to the Carnegie Corp. and the American Library Association.


“Because of Sarah, the whole community has fallen in love with the library,” said Tina Chapman, development and communications director at Kennebec Valley Behavioral Health in Waterville. “It has become a hub of activity, education and service and creativity in the community. And it’s because of Sarah that the whole community has become excited about the library.”

Chapman and about a dozen other community members nominated Sugden, who has been the library’s director since 2005, for the award, and Chapman wrote the nomination.

“I am so tremendously grateful for this honor,” said Sugden, who spoke Tuesday night from The New York Times building in Manhattan, the site of the awards ceremony. “It is my heart’s delight to work in my beloved hometown at my very favorite library and with an extraordinary team of colleagues, trustees, volunteers and community partners.

“I am so grateful to the people of Waterville who work with us to make the Waterville Public Library the library our community deserves,” she said.

Sugden, 40, grew up in Waterville and volunteered at the library as a high school student before graduating from Waterville Senior High School and attending Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where she studied history. Sugden worked at a library in Phoenix, Ariz., then in Cambridge, Mass., before her return to Waterville.

While she always enjoyed working at the library as a teen, she said she hadn’t considered a career in library science until she was almost through with college.


“In my senior spring, my dad said to me, ‘What are you going to do with your history degree, Sarah?’ and a colleague suggested to me that you could actually go to graduate school and get a graduate degree in library science, so that’s what I did, and it was the best thing I’ve done,” she said.

“She’s a charm. She’s a jewel in Waterville and she’s done fabulous things for the library,” said Lee Folsom, the library’s head of adult services and circulation. She said she remembers Sugden as a high school student. When the library’s previous director retired in 2005, everyone was thrilled to learn that she would take over as director.

“At that point she was in Cambridge, and we asked if she wanted to come back to Maine. The rest is pretty much history,” Folsom said. “Waterville truly is lucky to have her.”

She also was president of the Waterville Rotary from 2009 to 2010. Chapman, who said she knows Sugden through work and the Rotary, said that when she heard about the I Love My Librarian Award, it seemed natural for the community to nominate Sugden.

“I come across a lot of grant and award applications through my work, and when I saw this one in my email, I just said, ‘We have to do this because Sarah is so deserving and it would epitomize how the community feels about her,'” Chapman said. “It was so easy to get people to say ‘Oh my gosh, yes, I want to say how much I love Sarah.'”

Chapman wrote the application, but the library also helped her get in touch with patrons and people in the community who work with Sugden to write the nomination, which Sugden said was a surprise.


“I’m a reader and I have a great respect for libraries, but the Waterville library is like no other library I’ve ever been in,” said Dana Hamilton, employment services coordinator at Kennebec Valley Community Action Program. “We’re really lucky to have Sarah. She treats her entire staff and everyone that comes into the library with a great respect, and that carries forward to everyone that comes in the building.”

“She is a shining light,” said Eve Sotiriou, a Waterville resident who said she started coming to the library a few years ago with her son. “Sarah just makes everyone feel accepted the moment they walk in.”

Sugden, who is married and has two children, said she is eager to continue working to help the community through the library.

“All of us at the library are eager to work with our community partners and with the city to try and make all things happen,” she said. “We are determined to try and help as many people as we can.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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