Mattapoisett Library director retires from ‘dream job’

Aug 30, 2020

MATTAPOISETT — After 11 years as library director, Susan Pizzolato will be leaving a legacy of improved programs and services when she retires from what she described as her “dream job” this week.

New executive director Jennifer Jones replaced Pizzolato on Sept. 1. 

Pizzolato said she has always been bookish, but studied some nursing in college in Boston. 

After receiving an MFA in poetry, the Long Island native worked a research job at Radcliffe College’s Schlesinger Library before taking a career break to raise her three sons in Wareham with husband Gene. 

“[The] South Coast is very much like Long Island,” she said. “I can’t imagine not living near water.” 

But she couldn’t stay out of the library. Pizzolato volunteered as a library trustee in Wareham in the 1980s when the town was building the library’s main branch, which she said changed her understanding of “what a contemporary library looked like.”

This led to a second master’s degree in library science, after which she became a reference librarian in Wareham at age 38. She loved the work because it felt like she was always solving mysteries, she said. 

She was eventually promoted to assistant director in Wareham, where she focused on social services and family literacy before leaving more than a decade ago to become director in Mattapoisett. 

The library had just been renovated the previous year —  and residents were eager for programming, something she said played well to her strengths. 

Since taking the reins, Pizzolato has developed and expanded the library’s programs and services, including the “Library of Things” — which allows patrons to check out a variety of items like musical instruments, sewing machines, fishing poles and science activity kits.

She said continuing these services in the time of coronavirus will require support from taxpayers.

The outgoing director views her work as “really a public service,” adding that patrons often have “a need for information as much as for things to read.” 

She noted that library work involves building trust with the public, and that she enjoys seeing how people evolve. But COVID-19 posed a new challenge. 

One way that the library can evolve amid the pandemic, Pizzolato noted, is by providing more materials to parents for online learning as kids return to a hybrid model in schools. 

In the last few months, she said it has been “very labor-intensive to serve patrons while they are not at the library.”

The plan, she added, is still to open libraries slowly, and keep the safety of patrons and staff in mind first. 

And she trusts the library staff and incoming director Jones to do a good job, saying that she is confident the Mattapoisett Free Public Library will “thrive” under Jones’ leadership and that she is “comfortable” with leaving. 

Pizzolato said that during retirement she plans to explore varied interests: spending more time with her poetry group, traveling when possible to see her sons, and fishing, which is an old passion she would love to revive.

As for a goodbye party, she said, she has never been a huge party person and will not miss having a huge celebration. 

“I did my service,” she added.