DERRY — The Derry Public Library named its new leader.
Eric Stern is the library's new director. He will begin the job on May 18.
Stern replaces former library director Cara Potter, who left the post earlier this year to take a new position in her native state of Ohio.
During the past months, the library has morphed itself into a more remote, online resource for patrons, offering programs available through the library's web site, along with other informational videos, book chats, children's programs and weekly games and contests to keep book lovers of all ages engaged and informed.
For Stern, also a lawyer, returning to Derry Public Library is a journey back to a familiar, friendly space.
"After practicing law for a while, I recognized I needed a change and set out to explore my options," the Boston-born, Londonderry-raised Stern said. "My thoughts kept creeping back to positions I had held throughout my academic career that tapped into my obsessive need for order and organization, while also fostering creativity."
The 40-year-old had worked as a library media aide during his years at Londonderry High School and also spent time as a page at Londonderry's Leach Library. He also spent several years as a part-time reference librarian at Derry Public Library.
He credits a prior Leach supervisor, Sally Nelson, for giving him encouragement to pursue his education in library science.
Having that education put Stern in a position to consider his next path; whether to be part of a law library, or other academic facility, or return to a public library setting.
"However, when it became time for me and my wife to decide where we wanted to raise a family, the prospect of leaving New Hampshire was not something that particularly excited either of us," Stern said. "With that strongly on my mind, I took another leap and applied to Derry Public Library."
Stern said once he interviewed for the director's position, he knew he landed where he meant to be.
"Libraries always were special to me as a child," he said. "I remember the story times I attended at Leach Library. I remember visiting Derry Public Library just after the renovation/expansion was completed in 1989 and being really impressed. Going back earlier in my childhood, I even have fond, fuzzy memories of visiting the Taylor Library when I was an attendee at the Nutfield Cooperative Preschool."
Stern's path returning to Derry Public Library included a lot of decision-making as he pondered the "proverbial crossroads" on his journey.
"With my daughter set to enter kindergarten in the fall, the time was fast approaching for a decision to be made regarding my legal practice," he said. "All it took was one trip back to town and Derry Public Library and I had my answer. The people, the staff and patrons of Derry Public Library sealed the deal."
Stern said hopes to support the library's continued emphasis on patrons and services through the coronavirus challenges while looking forward to when the "new normal" is put in place.
"I feel that in the short term, and possibly the long term, we will need to leverage technology to the greatest possible extent to enable us to continue serving the community safely and effectively," Stern said. "Truthfully, there are few options that I wouldn't consider. I've even been exploring the use of telepresence robots to interact with patrons in the vestibule during book pickups, to conduct reference interviews, give virtual library tours, and present programs. We may need unprecedented creativity to solve unprecedented problems."
Stern said the Derry library holds a special place in his heart.
"I didn't want to become the director of just any library, I wanted to be the director of Derry Public Library," he said. "The library has all the stuff a director with a vision could want, a creative passionate staff, a very loyal and invested patron base. While I'm not a painter, I'll use an art metaphor — Derry Public Library is the perfect canvas for someone with a creative vision and I can't wait to get started."