Meet the Staff

Stephen Kwasnik

Stephen Kwasnik

Adult Programming Librarian, Burroughs-Saden Main Library

How long have you worked at BPL?
Over 21 years

What are your responsibilities?
I am the Adult Programming Librarian at Burroughs, the Federal Documents Librarian, A Reference Librarian, and A Collection Development Librarian.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the library?
I like being immersed in the world of books, dvd’s and general information. Helping people find information is my most important job at the library.

What is your favorite book?
That is an interesting question. I read many types of books for the many parts of my life. Any good Christian will say the Bible is their favorite books. I also read lots of Christian books and my all time favorite is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. I am an avid mystery buff and loved the Kay Scarpetta Series by Patricia Cornwell. As far as American Literature my favorite book/movie is still the great Gone With the Wind.

Favorite genre?
Mysteries

Favorite food?
Pizza

Your hobbies?
I do crossfit 3-4 days a week. I have been weight training most of my life until this past decade when I switched over to crossfit. I love reading and watching movies. I have seen the majority of Oscar winners and nominees. I love all kinds of television but lately it has oddly been medical dramas. I thought about it the other night and I watch medical shows almost every night of the week (The Good Doctor, Transplant, Nurses, New Amsterdam, Chicago Med, and Grey’s Anatomy.)

Tell us some surprising things about yourself.
I was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming in an air force base hospital while my dad was in the airforce. For the first four years of my life we traveled around the country and then settled for a few years in Monson, Massachusetts where my parents grew up. Then we moved to Ellington, Connecticut where I grew up. I have worked in various libraries over my long career and even spent two years living in Memphis, Tennessee.

 

Paula Keegan

Paula Keegan

Branch Manager, North Branch Library

How long have you worked at BPL?
Over 35 years

What are your responsibilities?
A little bit of everything! Most days are spent providing staff and colleagues with whatever is needed to keep the library running smoothly, helping patrons with questions about policies, books or information, planning programs, and ordering books, DVDs and other materials. But some days I can be hammering a chair back together or speaking to a Congressman. I can be rescuing a chicken from the shrubbery or reading a book to an excited visiting class. I can be discussing neighborhood initiatives or working collaboratively with other managers on library policy. My days are full.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the library?
Every day is different. There’s always someone new to meet and something new to learn and share with others.

What is your favorite book?
I don’t have one, I have many, and many authors I look forward to reading when a new title comes out. I think we all need books we can turn to when we need to laugh, others when we need to cry, some that challenge us and others when we need an escape. 

Favorite genre?
Mostly mysteries, romance and historicals for fiction, history, science/nature and cooking for nonfiction. A romantic mystery about a beekeeper or astronomer set a hundred years ago with a recipe or two in it sounds great to me.

Favorite food?
Too many to name! Here’s a great warm weather meal, though: Corn on the cob from the farm stand on Park Avenue by Veteran’s Park, Striper or Blue caught in the Sound, fresh greens from the farmer’s market on McLevy Green with a heritage tomato grown from seeds a patron shared with me, and a cherry pie made with cherries from my mom and dad’s backyard.

Your hobbies?
Reading, movies, cooking and spending time with family.

Tell us some surprising things about yourself.
Library humor: I’m an open book. There aren’t too many surprises. Sometimes people are surprised when they see I’m left-handed. My mom always told me that being left-handed gave me a slightly different view of the world. Looking at things from different angles helps produce solutions. I like that!

 

Luis Rodriguez

Luis Rodriguez

Branch Manager, East Side Library

How long have you worked at BPL?
20 plus years.

What are your responsibilities?
Managing staff, ordering library materials, helping patrons with questions they have.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the library?
I like helping patrons with daily questions.

What is your favorite book?
My favorite book is Celia: My Life by Celia Cruz.

Favorite genre?
It would have to be biographies.

Favorite food?
Bandeja Paisa.

Your hobbies?
Dancing salsa and bachata; watching movies; collecting WWE autographs;
reading graphic novels, and also I love listening to salsa, bachata, merengue, cumbia, and the 80’s music.

Tell us some surprising things about yourself.
I was born in Bogota, Colombia but raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I have over 40 WWE autographs which include The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
I took dance lessons for Salsa and Bachata. I took salsa classes for six years and bachata classes for four years. These classes changed my life – from losing weight to meeting awesome people.

Trina Preston

Trina Preston

Library Assistant II, Black Rock Library

How long have you worked at BPL?
26 years

What are your responsibilities?
I check in/out books, magazines, and audio materials. I assist patrons with computers and I also process and withdraw magazines and help wherever I am needed.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the library?
I love working with people and knowing I make a difference in their lives.

What is your favorite book?
My favorite book has to be “The Coldest Winter Ever” by Sister Souljah. I need a book to grab my attention within the first few pages and this one does just that.

Favorite genre?
It would have to be a mix between Urban Fiction and True Crime.

Favorite food?
Surely a mix between fish and grits and pizza.

Your hobbies?
My hobbies include relaxing and spending time with my active 9-year-old daughter.

Tell us some surprising things about yourself.
I never thought I would work in the library field.  My goal was to open up and run my own daycare center but after I heard the library was hiring I applied, got the job, and never looked back. Another fun fact about me is that I love buying fun and colorful socks; I have a drawer full of them.

John Soltis

John Soltis

Assistant City Librarian

How long have you worked at BPL?
Over 30 years

What are your responsibilities?
My primary responsibility is to assist the City Librarian in moving the BPL forward as we continue our mission to provide 1st class service to our patrons. I also serve as the BPL’s webmaster and social media content supervisor.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the library?
Bridgeport is my hometown and I’ve been fortunate to have a career that has allowed me to interact with pretty much the entire Bridgeport community. Additionally, my colleagues at the BPL have been wonderful to work with.

What is your favorite book?
Impossible to say – often it’s the book I’m reading at the moment.

Favorite genre?
I can’t really say. Right now, I am reading Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, a nonfiction book by the American journalist Isabel Wilkerson. Prior to that, I dug out and reread some old Philip K. Dick science fiction novels. In broad terms, I tend to read mostly nonfiction dealing with politics, history, social issues and current events.

Favorite food?
Pizza and/or ice cream – It’s really hard to choose.

Your hobbies?
Running, hiking and (surprise!) reading.

Tell us some surprising things about yourself.
The first library I ever went to was East Branch Library where I became a regular. Years later, my first library job was as a Library Assistant 1 at the same East Branch Library.

Gail Marcello

Gail Marcello

Library Assistant, North Branch Library

How long have you worked at BPL?
37 years

What are your responsibilities?
As a Part-timer I do many jobs in Children’s, Young Adult, and Circulation Departments.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the library?
I find it very fulfilling to help someone find the items that they want and they leave feeling happy and thankful.

What is your favorite book?
THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Burnett and THE CAMEL CLUB by David Baldacci

Favorite genre?
Mystery and Gothic Romance

Favorite food?
Anything Italian

Your hobbies?
Reading and also puzzles: especially crossword and Sudoku. I also love hiking on trails where I live.

Tell us some surprising things about yourself.
As a grammar school student, I walked past Burroughs Main Library and often went in and asked if I could have a job in the “Picture Room.”  Yes, there was a department named Picture Room which was on the first floor next to the Children’s Room.  The wonderful women there let me properly stamp picture books for about 30 minutes whenever I came in.  That was when I fell “in love” with the library and after 37 years I am still “in Love.

Michele Jacobson

Michele Jacobson

Branch Manager, Black Rock Library

How long have you worked at BPL?
33 years

What are your responsibilities?
Updating staff on procedure, assigning tasks and projects as well as managing book orders, programming, patron issues and trying to figure out where to put all the new books.  I like to match staff talents to their assignments whenever possible.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the library?
I love that the library offers everyone a window and doors to worlds they never imagined.   If I can be part of that introduction, so much the better.

What is your favorite book?
JUST ONE?  It depends.  Every year I seem to find one book that I love above all others.  That said, the ones that pop to mind right now are:  Jane Eyre, To Kill a Mockingbird, Rust Maidens, Little Women, Swordspoint and Good Omens.  Next week it might be a different six.

Favorite genre?
Ghost stories!  M.R. James is my scary idol.  Mysteries, sagas and thrillers come in a close second.

Favorite food?
Margherita Pizza is what they serve in Heaven along with Toll House cookies.

Your hobbies?
Reading, paper crafting, movies, storytelling, collecting fairy tale books and ghost story collections, attempting to finish writing all the novels I ever started and cleaning my house (Marie Kondo is a genius!)

Tell us some surprising things about yourself.
Scariest 5 minutes of my life: sharing an elevator with Stephen King at World Fantasy Con in the 1980s. Second scariest: meeting the ghost hanging out at my brother’s 1910 house 12 years ago.  Thanks to my parents I have seen most of the lower 48 states and had the questionable thrill of staring a bison in the face. I have never seen and will never see The Tiger King.

Nykia Eaddy

Nykia Eaddy

Branch Manager, Newfield Library

How long have you worked at BPL?
20+ years. I started as a Library Page right out of High school.

What are your responsibilities?
Typically, the Branch Manager is responsible for the daily operations of the branch. While Newfield Library is undergoing renovation and building updates, I am currently preparing for its opening, ordering new books, movies, computers, gaming equipment, and other library supplies.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the library?
Interacting with and helping patrons. I enjoy connecting people to the information they are looking for and the free resources we have available at the library. I also get to work with some amazing people!

What is your favorite book?
The Shack by William P. Young is one of my favorite books.

Favorite genre?
Fiction and Romance.

Favorite food?
Pizza, I can eat it every day!

Your hobbies?
Reading of course, but also spending time with friends and family.

Tell us some surprising things about yourself:
I love romantic comedies, and I still buy music CDs.

Bina Williams

Bina Williams

Librarian II, Youth Services

How long have you worked at BPL?
22 years

What are your responsibilities?
I do reader’s advisory, offer story hours, lead craft programs, review and order new books, coordinate summer reading lists, look into grant opportunities, and do community outreach through the schools and other civic groups. I am a member of the Coretta Scott King Awards community, The American Library Association, The Association for Library Service to Children, and the Young Adult Library Services Association.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the library?
The diversity of our patrons is the best part of our community. I adore working with the littlest children who just soak up the stories and songs at a story hour. During the COVID 19 quarantine, I continue my story time (Little Bears) via Zoom which lets me see the attendees. It warms my heart to see them and hear them! I created an art program for them called Little Hands where I am constantly amazed by the innate creativity that the children have. Process not Product! I am trying to figure out how to take this program online too.

What is your favorite book?
As a child, I loved The Secret garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The next book I adored was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I reread books annually for many years… And I do adore Harry Potter….and then there’s….. so many books, so little time…

Favorite genre?
I love to read across genres—I used to read mysteries like eating popcorn but then my tastes expanded, partly due to my career shift from bookseller to librarian. I don’t think of myself as a fantasy reader in the fairies and unicorns wing of the genre, but when I look at the many children’s novels I have enjoyed, a fair number are fantasy. But, of course, my true passion is picture books.

Favorite food?
Lobster.

Your hobbies?
Well, my career is also my hobby in a way. I love to meet children’s and YA authors and illustrators and their editors and publishers. I love to read picture books just for the joy of the art combined with a rich story. I have been very active on some major awards committees for the Association For Library Service To Children. Yes, it was a lot of work each time, but also a lot of fun. I also have been able to share these passions as an adjunct professor of Children and/or Young Adult Literature at a couple of local universities.

Tell us some surprising things about yourself.
I used to be a member of a Vintage dance group that taught and performed historic ballroom dances from the early 19th century through the 1930s! We either bought vintage clothes or made our own historically accurate ballgowns and accessories. I even made a corset! Perusing vintage clothing stores and finding old sheet music, etiquette books and dance manuals made it all the more fun.

Ron Fontaine

Ron Fontaine

Head of Reference Services

How long have you worked at BPL?
24 years.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the library?
Answering reference questions and helping patrons find books. If I make them happy, then I’m happy, too!

What is your favorite book?
Being a lover of popular music of the 20th Century, and a Reference Librarian, my favorite is a reference book entitled “American Popular Songs from the Revolutionary War to the Present” by David Ewen.

Favorite genre?
For fiction, it’s Science Fiction and Horror.

Favorite food?
Pistachio ice cream!

Your hobbies?
Collecting vinyl records, especially 45rpm Rock ‘n Roll and Rhythm and Blues discs of the 1950s and 1960s. Also, watching old movies and TV shows made before 1970.

Tell us some surprising things about yourself.
1) I have a double: Actor and playwright, Wallace Shawn (Princess Bride, Clueless, Young Sheldon). It was a thrill meeting him!
2) This year marks my 40th year as a librarian!