Montgomery County

Arkell Museum, library to be run by co-directors

The Canajoharie Library and Arkell Museum are under new leadership.

The Canajoharie Library and Arkell Museum are under new leadership.

Well, sort of new leadership. Librarian Leah LaFera and museum curator Diane Forsberg stepped up as co-directors last month, splitting the past responsibilities of executive director.

Eric Trahan left his role as executive director of the compound back in June to take a similar position at the Mohawk Valley Library System, which includes the Canajoharie Library

For a few months while the library board sifted through candidates to fill the role, LaFera and Forsberg stepped in as acting directors. By the time the applications were sorted, the board realized the position wasn’t necessary.

“We are fortunate to have on staff, two extremely well qualified museum and library professionals to assume a co-directorship,” Board President Chuck Tallent said in a statement. “We look forward to the synergy Diane and Leah will bring to this institution.”

The change effectively eliminates one salary from the organization pay role, which eases a financial burden, but the new set up might yield more than monetary benefits.

The library and museum share a building, and Forsberg and LaFera work to organize joint events. It’s a symbiotic relationship, but Forsberg pointed out that the library and museum are separate entities.

“You check out books from a library and look at exhibits in a museum,” she said, adding that the two entities work from separate budgets and revenue streams.

They also have slightly different audiences. While the library and museum both serve the local population, the museum is visited by a larger arts community.

“There are people overseas that know about the Arkell Museum,” she said.

Those differences call for different skill sets.

LaFera and Forsberg both have degrees and years of experience in their fields. It makes sense then to split the responsibilities between two specialized individuals than ask one executive director to keep track of both.

“There are pros and cons,” she said. “We work very well together, but there is also more to do.”

Forsberg said her job isn’t actually all that much different from day to day, but she has more responsibility and reports directly to the board.

The added responsibility doesn’t come with a pay bump.

“It’s not about money,” she said. “We’re struggling with fundraising as it is.”

The library only gets $700 of public funding each year. The rest of the operating budget and that of the museum is raised through donations and an endowment, but “in this economy everyone has less to give,” according to Forsberg.

One of their fist acts as co-directors was to install a “Donate” button on the website to encourage contributions.

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