WATERVILLE — Tammy Rabideau is ready to write her own chapter as the new director of the Waterville Public Library.

“I have bold ideas and bold visions,” said Rabideau. “I feel like I’m the right person at the right time.”

Rabideau, who previously served as associate director under longtime and award-winning library leader Sarah Sugden, officially started in her new role Nov. 5 after Sugden left to become the director of the Brown County Library system based in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Rabideau called the new job a “natural progression” and “intentional transition over the last several months to a year” with Sugden ready to pursue new opportunities.

“It feels right. We’ve done beautiful work together,” Rabideau said about taking the reins from Sugden. “It is a lot of fun, and it’s fun to find my own voice.”

Knowing that Sugden’s departure was on the horizon provided Rabideau time to proactively think about what’s next for the library.

“My hope is to be part of continuing to shore up the survivability (and) thrive-ability of the organization for the next 100 years,” said Rabideau, adding that both she and her predecessor have a “real fervent passion for vibrant, relevant, vital libraries in contemporary society.”

Rabideau, 48, moved to Waterville with her family in 2006 when her husband, John Turner, took a job as a professor at Colby College. She has worked at Waterville Public Library for nine years with an emphasis on building relationships with other community partners such as the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce and Central Maine Growth Council. Rabideau is also a member of the board of directors of Waterville Creates! and co-founded PechaKucha Night Waterville.

A graduate of Skidmore College, Rabideau received a master’s degree in library and information science from the State University of New York, Albany. She worked in major academic library systems at the University of Michigan, Swarthmore College and the Georgia Institute of Technology before being hired at the Waterville library in 2010.

She now leads a staff of 20 people, with six full-time staff members, and said her new salary is $75,000. Sugden’s annual salary was $68,000.

Tammy Rabideau, the new director of the Waterville Public Library, in a reading room at the library on Wednesday. Rabideau previously served as associate director under longtime, award-winning library leader Sarah Sugden. Staff photo by David Leaming

“I’m excited that my particular professional background prepares me well to dance with the deepened relationship with Colby,” Rabideau said, identifying existing and potential synergies with Colby College, particularly with the school’s new downtown dorm.

More than 30 Colby students had expressed interest in volunteering at the library at some point this fall, Rabideau said, also citing a new initiative called “Camp Code” that started Saturday, Nov. 17, in which two college students will spend time at the library working with community youth ages 9-14 who have an interest in computer programing.

The new director hopes to increasingly bring the Waterville and Colby communities together, choosing to refer to the area as one “community with a capital C.”

“I think it’s important because it doesn’t establish an ‘other’ from the outset,” she said.

Librarian Jennifer De Salme said she’s worked with Rabideau for six years and called her a “connecting point” with library partners in the community.

“She already has all the connections,” De Salme said of the new director.

Rabideau created the library’s Business, Career, & Creativity Center and has worked with the Chamber of Commerce and other groups on employment-related programs that support local job-seekers.

“I was hired to start what’s called the Business, Career, & Creativity Center. But here’s the big secret: That’s what a library is,” she said.

According to Rabideau, one of the “guiding principles” of her work and the library’s work generally is “to really empower people to reach their potential.”

“We’ve been working with her from day one,” Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kimberly Lindlof said of Rabideau, adding that the chamber is “truly excited” about her new role.

Lindlof called the library a “vital piece” in the effort to help unemployed or underemployed people in the region find jobs and said the chamber has an “active and strong relationship” with the library.

“We hope to continue to strengthen that relationship,” Lindlof said.

“It’s not all about the books; it’s really about community connection,” Rabideau said.

Rabideau credited Sugden for turning the library around and sees her tenure as “definitely a continuation of the great work that we did together.”

“But we’re, of course, different people,” she said.

Rabideau pointed to Sugden’s leadership overseeing a renovation and expansion of the library.

“I hope to honor the spirit and legacy and great work that Sarah really gave to Waterville,” Rabideau said, saying that there were mushrooms growing out of the ceiling in the children’s room at one point years ago. “And it’s extraordinary, she took us from mushrooms to a national medal.”

The Waterville library was one of 10 nationwide winners of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service for 2017, and Sugden won a national “I Love My Librarian award” in 2014. Rabideau was also recognized in 2015 with the Mid-Maine Chamber’s Outstanding Professional award.

“Tammy has been invaluable in working with Sarah over the last eight years,” library board of trustees President Cindy Jacobs said in September when Rabideau took over on an interim basis. “We are confident that she is ready and well equipped to take on the director’s duties for the library.”

“The city really is very confident in the library’s choice,” Waterville City Manager Michael Roy said recently, citing the relationships that Rabideau has already established in the community. “I think it’s going to work very well.”

Roy described the library as a “quasi-city department” that receives much of its funding from the city but is governed by the library’s board of trustees.

The library has a budget of about $667,000, and about $475,500 comes from the city. The library receives about 100,000 visitors a year and has a collection of 75,000 items.

Rabideau said the biggest challenge facing the library is “having adequate resources to properly be all that we can be for the community.” She said the city is supportive of the library, and she understands that there are competing needs for resources.

“As Waterville’s tide rises, and there are resources to invest in our community, I think the library is a very sound investment,” she said.

Matt Junker — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @mattjunker

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.