Historian looks to future as library director | Local News

Andrew Henley is fascinated by the past.

However, the present commands his attention as well, and that’s what has become his main focus as the newly hired director of the New Castle Public Library.

The graduate of Mohawk High School and Westminster College — he earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 2017 — is president of the Lawrence County Historical Society (where he began volunteering at age 13) and has founded his own company, Pleasant Hill Historians. That enterprise conducts historical research on cultural heritage sites, publishes articles and books related to history research, performs genealogical research for clients and consults on exhibitions and preservation techniques.

He has no plans of consigning history to the past, but since being named March 28 as library director, he’s looking out first and foremost for his community.

“The need for financial literacy in our community is high, as well as the need for partnerships between different nonprofits,” he said. “I really don’t think a nonprofit is going to survive by itself in the post-COVID atmosphere, and this will allow us to formulate these partnerships with my connections so that we are looking at how we can work together.

“Duplicating efforts is not really possible in today’s market.”

That means making the library’s resources readily available to everyone. After earning his master’s degree in library information science at the University of Pittsburgh and serving as the director of the FD Campbell Library in Bessemer, Henley believes his position as director of New Castle’s library — and, by extension, the administrator of the Lawrence County Federated Library System—provides him with that opportunity.

“I really believe that the library can act as an epicenter of our community’s growth,” he said. “We are providing so many services for our community, we want to make sure that our community is aware of them.”

Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic — which hampered or even ended so many other businesses, events and initiatives — may have helped the library expand its reach.

“We’ve invested a great deal of money into e-Books and audiobooks,” Henley said. “Everybody in the entire county has access to free audiobooks and free e-Books. A lot of people pay for Audible (an online service that allows users to purchase and stream audiobooks), but what they don’t realize is that they actually have the access to an audio format free of charge, through your taxes.

“COVID has really slow itself to us investing in that asset to our community. We also have ancestry.com throughout the entire county, and access to tutor.com, so any child or adult who is studying something has access to a tutor from the comforts of their home.”

Sandra Collins, a previous library director, helped to spearhead a program in which all students in the Neshannock Township School District were onboarded as library members, Henley said. Now, during the district’s preschool registrations, all students receive a library card.

“We are looking at onboarding other school districts with the hope of providing these e-Books and audiobooks, as well as the other services we offer, to children,” he said, “so that as they’re registering for school, they’ re registering for a library card.”

Henley left the area for a few years to work in the Washington, DC, area but eventually returned to his roots in Lawrence County, where his great-grandfather was an inventor, his paternal grandfather started a still-existing Edinburg business and his grandfather helped to build the former Madonna Church.

“This was always going to be my home,” the son of Mary Ann and John Henley Jr. said. “I have so many family members here. It’s finding your niche in the community and really making sure it’s successful, because when the community is successful, I’m successful.

“Sometimes I prioritize our community’s success over mine, but I really do feel that it is a symbiotic relationship.”



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