30 Under 30: Sondra Murphy, New Oak Bluffs Library Director

An exciting new phase at the Oak Bluffs Library.

The Oak Bluffs Library is the year round heartbeat of the down island community. Sondra Murphy, the newly appointed Library Director, has been a mainstay among the staff for years and agrees the library plays a central role in the daily life of all generations.  

With ideas in branding, community building and design, Murphy is deeply commited to brigthening the face of the library. Her poise, intelligence, modesty and unabridged optimism is absolutely essential in taking the library from good to great. Murphy's staff adores her and library members love the freshness that has come with her presence. 

Meet Sondra Murphy, a young woman with big dreams for the library and its future, and future is looking oh so bright...

How long have you lived on Martha's Vineyard and in what part of the island did you spend the most time?

I came here to live full-time in May of 2010, a week after I finished grad school. Before that I had spent two summers here, working in restaurants to pay off my student loans. I'm pretty much a down-island girl, I spend 85% of my time in Oak Bluffs, ahough, I'd love someone to show me all the secret places up-island!

Where did you go to college and what did you study?

I was an English Major at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in lovely North Adams, with a concentration in Creative Writing and Journalism. I got my Master's in Library and Information Science at Simmons in Boston.

What was it that made you decide to live on MV and make a life on the island?

My father was here for four years building the new hospital; he was the superintendent for the project. Prior to him getting that job, I had never been to the Island, actually. But after spending a couple summers on the Island, I realized that there were more opportunities for me here than there were off-island. This Island has given me so much, I really don't know where I would be if I hadn't come here. I am very lucky.

What is your current job and what are your responsibilities?

I am the Library Director, which to me is a mix of being the library's biggest fan, and the figurehead who does everything in her power to help the library grow. Beyond making sure everything runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis, I'm an advocate: a cheerleader for library staff, programs, and services. I'm in charge of the business end of things like the creating the budget, state and town reports, and grant writing, but also the intangible like supporting the staff to reach their full potential. 

Tell me a little bit about the timeline of events that let you to your current job? 

I started working at the Oak Bluffs Library part-time during the summer while I was attending grad school. When I graduated, it made sense to come to the Island to work here again. Only a couple weeks after I started in 2010, the Children's Librarian at the time announced that she was leaving. I was hired as the Children's Librarian in October 2010. A year later, I became the Interim Director, which then led to being the Acting Director. I remained the Acting Director for a little over the year, and was just hired as the Director. This is something I didn't think I'd get a chance to do in my career for a long time, but I feel like the timing was right and I am certainly up for the challenge!

What interesting projects are you currently working on?

The biggest project I've been working on over the past six months is re-branding the Library. I think establishing a brand is important, as the Oak Bluffs Library has gone through many reincarnations in its history. I've made it my goal to give us a fresh face for the future. Hayes Design Studios has been working hard on our new website, logo, mission statement, and slogan. It's all coming together now, leading up to a celebration happening on Friday, February 1 (5-8pm) and Saturday the 2 (10-4pm). We're going to be having 18 holes of mini-golf on both floors of the library, and food by Park Corner Bistro and Skinny's Fat Sandwiches. We're also raffling off a round-trip plus car plus two adults, donated by the Steamship Authority. It's going to be so much fun!

Are you involved in any other groups/committees on island? 

I'm a part of MVLA, or the Martha's Vineyard Library Association which meets a few times a year to plan events and discuss the future of our Island libraries. When I first came here I had a radio show on WVVY called "Rock Sandwiches and Wild Bikinis" that I hosted with a couple friends. It lasted only a summer but it was sweet, and I'd love to get back on the air! I'm definitely looking for other contributions I can make to the community, so if anyone wants to recruit me for their committee or organization, I'm available!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A fellow librarian and I have this great idea of buying a bookmobile, filling it with books, and traveling cross-country to inner cities and small towns without libraries doing pop-up storytimes everywhere. I want to make this happen but it will take some time to get grants, books, and a bookmobile. Other than that, I have no idea where life will take me, which is what makes life so great to begin with. 

Top three favorite books of all time? 

I think this might be the most dreaded question for all book lovers! How can you pick favorites? I fell in love with three books when I was in high school and I will forever have to give them credit for changing my life: 1984, Catcher in the Rye, and Fahrenheit 451. 

Most impressive library you've ever visited?

Some of my favorite libraries are ones with secluded basements or floors where people rarely visit. I love being alone in libraries, surrounded by books and tall shelves and weird paintings. I really get a kick out of academic libraries, especially ones with poor lighting, movable stacks, and microfiche collections. I have passed a lot of time in Mass College of Liberal Arts' library, spending rainy days and late nights looking through old collections of outdated books. I guess I'm not supposed to like that sort of thing now that I'm a librarian, but I still do. I like libraries with history and secrets.

Stay Tuned to the fresh energy and events happening at the Oak Bluffs Libary. From workshops, to films, and community gathering, the library has a bunch of newness on the horizon.  Follow the Oak Bluffs Library on its Facebook page, and check out its new website!  It's fantastic!

Ann Marie Cywinski January 24, 2013 at 12:02 PM
Sondra is an incredible asset to our library
William Waterway January 24, 2013 at 12:08 PM
We are fortunate to have Sondra as our Oak Bluffs Library Director. She brings a depth of knowledge and experience that has enriched our island's library system.
Cynthia Bloomquist January 24, 2013 at 01:49 PM
Sondra exudes a vital life force -- her joy of living is contagious. Wonderful to have her in this position where she can share with so many others and do so much good.
deborah forest hart January 24, 2013 at 04:45 PM
I look forward to all that is to come, since the Oak Bluffs Library is my "home" library, and Sondra sounds like the perfect person to bring forth creative community-building endeavors.
Abraham Seiman January 24, 2013 at 06:44 PM
sondra, If MVVY ever becomes a local radio station again, I've done a local radio show, as a volunteer, with records weather and news. Love to do it with a partner like you. Could be fun if you still have time. Abe
Thomas Dresser January 25, 2013 at 12:26 AM
Congratulations on your appointment as Director. We can already see the progress you've made in the attitude and atmosphere of the Library. Good job!


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