LONGMEADOW, MA – New Link to Libraries president and CEO Laurie Flynn knows she has big shoes to fill. Taking over the responsibilities that her predecessor Susan Jaye-Kaplan once had is no easy task, considering Jaye-Kaplan co-founded LTL with Janet Crimmons in 2007.
Luckily for LTL, the Longmeadow resident and former school committee member is up to the task and couldn’t be more of a fit for her new position, which she began in September.
Flynn’s resume speaks for itself. The Washington, D.C. native served as Deputy Press Secretary for U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg (R–NH) in the 90s before eventually becoming his Press Secretary. She later became Communications Manager in the Office of the Secretary of the Senate before becoming an Independent Communications Consultant. Eventually, she co-founded Red Mantel Communications.
Flynn moved to Western MA about 10 years ago to start her business, and since then she has been heavily involved in children’s literature. She earned her Master’s in Writing for Children from Simmons College in 2011, and she’s always aware of what’s new in that genre due to her role as a Children Book’s Reviewer for Kirkus Reviews. If that wasn’t enough, for two years Flynn was Western MA Regional Coordinator for Reach Out and Read, and she served as a volunteer reader at Homer Street School in Springfield through LTL.
While she couldn’t be more qualified for the job, Flynn says no one can replace Jaye-Kaplan, who will still remain active with LTL as a board member and volunteer.
“Nobody can fill her shoes,” Flynn said. “As Shakespeare said: ‘Though she be but little, she is fierce.’ And she is definitely a force. So I’m not going to try to be her, even though we have a similar passion for kids and books. It’s still a wonderful comfort to know that she’s still there, and we can have a seamless transition.”
The Hampden-based LTL is a non-profit organization founded in 2008 that collects and distributes new and gently-used books to elementary school libraries and non-profit organizations in an effort to enhance the language and literacy skills of children of all cultural backgrounds.
For Flynn, the opportunity to become president and CEO was just too good to pass up.
“It was the first time in my life that I had a real opportunity to combine my personal experience with my passion for children’s literature,” she said. “It just seemed too good not to pursue it – it was really just a unique and special opportunity.”
Flynn says reading and writing are “inseparable” and “the more you read, the better you write.” She hopes that her passion for both will translate to continued success for LTL.
Flynn added that LTL programs like the Business Book Link, which connects local businesses with one school that they can support for a three-year period of time, and the popular Celebrity Read Aloud Program, will continue to be staples of LTL. But she also said LTL is looking for help to fill a void in Springfield and Holyoke, where there is a great demand for Spanish language and bi-lingual books due to so many children and families fleeing Puerto Rico.
“We’re trying to help them as best we can in schools and shelters, but there is a need,” Flynn said. “These books can be very expensive, so we’re pursuing grants to see if we can help fill this new need.”
Additionally, Flynn says that people donating their time and getting involved with LTL is something that will be key to LTL’s success.
“It’s not just about people writing checks, people giving time is so important,” she said. “When you see people rolling up their sleeves and coming to classrooms to read to the children, I think that’s really special. It gives people a unique opportunity to really get involved in the community.”
For more information about LTL, go to www.linktolibraries.org.
– Article by Jeff Hanouille