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From first library card to director

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Melissa Robinson is the new director of the Peabody Institute Library.

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY — On Monday, Melissa Robinson stepped into her new role as director of the Peabody Institute Library, a place she has loved for so long that her desire for a library card almost derailed her fourth birthday party.

“There’s a story that my mom always tells about how when I was three years old I could not wait to get a library card,” said Robinson, who grew up in Peabody. “You had to be four to get a library card. I would bug the staff about why you had to be four, and they said you had to be old enough to sign your name.”

Robinson learned to sign her name before the age of four, but to no avail as far as the library staff was concerned when it came to dishing out the valuable cards.

“Finally, the day before my fourth birthday, my mother went down to the library and said that unless they gave me a library card, I would be down the next day and not allow my birthday party to start until I got my card,” said Robinson.

Sneaking that library card in a day early was only the beginning of a long journey through the stacks. At 14, Robinson’s first job was as a page, in college she interned at the library, and since graduating from college, she’s spent her entire career working in Peabody’s libraries.

The majority of the 34-year-old’s time in the system was as the teen librarian at the main branch, followed by time as the senior branch librarian at the West Peabody Library. For the past three months Robinson has been the acting assistant director.

Taking over for Martha Holden, who retired in March, is no small task.

“She really showed what an asset a library can be for the community,” said Robinson. “As a department head, I want to help continue that tradition of service to the community. I think a library should be the heart of a community and should inspire lifelong learning.”

As the new director, she said one of her first goals is to look at new ways to provide children’s services in the city’s three libraries.

“The way families use libraries is rapidly changing and we want to take a fresh look,” said Robinson. “We want to work with other community organizations to stay responsive to the needs of parents in Peabody.”

With a forward-thinking staff and strong support from the city, Robinson said she expects Peabody’s libraries to continue to thrive.

“I think our programming is what really sets us apart,” she said. “On any single day, there are six or seven programs going on at one of our three buildings.”

Robinson, who is married and has 18-month-old twin boys, currently lives in Hampton, N.H., which she said means that she listens to a lot of audiobooks. While she said it’s hard for her pick one book as her all-time favorite, her favorite book as a child was “Anne of Green Gables.”

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