From his time in Denver’s music scene to his work in an Austin library, fostering a sense of community has been a top priority for Sitka’s new library director Andrew Murphy. KCAW’s Katherine Rose brings us this profile- 

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When Robb Farmer, Sitka Public Library’s previous director, moved away at the beginning of the summer, he shared his job description with thousands and thousands of librarians via Facebook. “I posted it onto the ‘Library Thinktank’ on facebook, 27,000 people, most of whom I have not met, with five random pictures from my phone,” said Farmer. This job is open, here are the kind of views that await you, apply!”

And that’s just where Sitka’s new library director, Andrew Murphy, found it. “Robb previously posted some photos on that same page,” Murphy said. “That really caught my attention because it’s so stunningly beautiful here.”

Murphy moved to Sitka from Austin Texas, where he spent the last 5 years studying and working as a librarian. But before that, he made a living in the music industry. As a young college student in Denver, Colorado, he even created his own record label, devoted to music from Denver.  “I was always very interested and active in the local music scene in Denver,” said Murphy. “The first album I released was by an instrumental surf band. The next record was by a hardcore punk band. The next was by a folk artist.”

An eclectic mix of genres, but Murphy says the small music scene in Denver in the 80’s and 90’s had a familial vibe. “That was one of the things that drew me to it initially. I’d go to a concert and it would be three local bands that sound completely different but they were all friends.”

When he was 23, he moved to San Francisco, and worked for a record distributor, running his Denver record label from 1,200 miles away. But after 9 years, he realized that a career in the music industry wasn’t for him. “I felt much more drawn to doing public servant work rather than working for a company that was motivated by profit,” Murphy said. “It’s nice that the library is for everybody and everything is free.”

And it doesn’t hurt that Murphy is somewhat of a “legacy” librarian. “My great grandmother was the city librarian in Worthington, Minnesota, for many years including throughout the Depression,” said Murphy. “The newspaper of that town at the time did an article about her- it was highlighting the libraries value during the Great Depression — how circulation of books increased, even back then directing people toward jobs, a service libraries still provide.”

And when he began working as a librarian, Murphy saw first-hand the added support libraries give to those who are struggling. “In Austin I was pretty involved with a community of people experiencing homelessness,” said Murphy. “Basically any issue or service that is not provided by the city the library ends up taking on that role.”

Murphy prioritized providing more services and activities. He started a monthly poetry program, using the skills he learned in the music industry to expand the program into both a podcast series and several volumes of books. And as with his record label, he published works from a range of writers, from patrons experiencing homelessness, to children and master’s candidates. “It really created a bigger sense of community,” said Murphy. “It was a way for everyone to feel a part of something bigger instead of just a monthly event at the library.”

Now, Murphy is trying to get a feel for the community here in Sitka. On his reading list? A book on the history of Kettleson Memorial library. “I found that very impressive that so much history was known about the history of the library here,” said Murphy, “and I’m happy to be a part of that history now.”

And as for the spectacular views Robb Farmer described in his facebook post, unfortunately Murphy hasn’t seen a whale from the library windows…yet. “I hope it’s not a busy moment,” Muphy said, “because it’s certainly going to distract me.”