She calls herself "an accidental librarian."
"I was very fortunate to have two sons," says Melissa Canham-Clyne, "who, when they were small, introduced me to the public library."
The new director of Bethany's started as a volunteer -- thanks to her sons -- at the New Haven Free Public Library. When a job opened up, she applied as an aide. When she realized she'd found her calling, she got a grant and earned her Masters' Degree in library science. She ended up serving as director of the library for seven years, leaving last week to head to Bethany. Her first day was Wednesday.
It was also the last day for former director Sarah Shepherd, leaving after five years at the helm. And in a poetic twist of fate, Canham-Clyne credits Shepherd -- her former co-worker at the New Haven Free Public Library -- for piquing her interest in Bethany.
"I thought she was so lucky because she got to go to Bethany!" says Canham-Clyne. "When I saw she was leaving, I thought, let me investigate and see if it's something I could do. And lo and behold!"
She says she's already enjoying her new role.
"Right now, I'm still learning quite a bit," she says, "I'm getting to meet some of the patrons. And that's been wonderful."
Canham-Clyne was selected by the Bethany Library Association after a months-long search that examined 33 applicants from six states, according to a release from the association.
"A major factor was the committee’s desire to hire an individual who would be able to transform our library into a cultural center for the town and a more dynamic part of our community," wrote association member Barbara Haag.
Canham-Clyne has experience with that "cultural center" aspect -- she spearheaded a citywide poetry contest for New Haven during her tenure. While she's formulating plans for Bethany, she doesn't want to get too specific yet. But she says she's eager to get to know the community and help the library play a central role in Bethany.
"i truly believe librarianship is about connecting people," she says. "It's about connecting people to information, to literature, to one another. Sometimes that's where the information is -- another human being. It's about bringing those things together. No two days are the same -- it's wonderfully unpredictable!"