Get to know Cyndi Hoffman, library director

Get to know Cyndi Hoffman, library director

By Madeline Otten

Some people might remember that the Fluvanna County Library used to be located on the first floor of the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center before it moved to 214 Commons Boulevard in Palmyra. While the transition might be fuzzy, library director Cyndi Hoffman remembers everything about that day.

In moving locations, Hoffman and her team faced one of their biggest challenges. But with help from the community and staff pulling together to help move everything from the old building to the current one, things only got better from there.

“People helped by checking out extra books so they wouldn’t have to be moved, county staff moved furniture, library staff and volunteers helped label carts with books and then came to the new library and helped re-shelve all of the books,” said Hoffman. “This could not have worked without everyone pulling together and helping out. I am very lucky to continue to work with a great team and have the support of great co-workers and volunteers.”

Hoffman started working for the Fluvanna County Public Library in June 2008. Over 10 years later, she continues her first role within the county as library director.

Hoffman grew up in upstate New York and lived on a dairy farm. While living on a farm fostered the love she has for animals, living in a small town sparked her interest in libraries. One of her earliest memories is attending story time at her hometown library with her mom and brother.

Later in life, Hoffman attended State University of New York (SUNY) Oswego and earned her degree in both Russian and international comparative politics with a minor in French. She then continued her education, doing her graduate work at the University of Buffalo for a master’s in library and information science.

But her job in Fluvanna was not her first time working for a library.

“I have spent over 20 years working in libraries around the United States, working my way up and learning as I went. I have worked in big cities, rural areas, some locations that were struggling economically and some that were well-funded, small libraries and big libraries,” said Hoffman. “All of that experience – the wide variety of people and diverse cultures – was my favorite part of working in public libraries. You learn just as much from the people you interact with as the research and books you read.”

Before moving to Fluvanna, Hoffman worked as a young adult and reference librarian in Texas. There she interacted with mostly teens, including teens in juvenile detention centers. She also worked as a high school librarian in Bergen, N.Y., a reference librarian and assistant department head in Kingston, N.C., and finally as the head of adult and young adult services in New City, N.Y.

Hoffman was drawn to Fluvanna by the rural area that was nevertheless close to activities and opportunities.

“That and my family asked me to stay within a day’s drive of them, and rural central Virginia was perfect. I moved here for this position and have lived here since,” said Hoffman.

As library director, Hoffman spends her days doing administrative work, cataloging new movies and books, ordering books, movies, and eBooks, researching programs or new ideas for the library, and more. If she is in the building, she can be found at the computer desk, which allows her to interact with the community and tackle work on the computer. On the other hand, when she is outside of the building, she attends meetings around the state and webinars on the computer to implement new ideas for the local community.

New ideas like pop-up libraries are becoming more popular within communities. Hoffman wants to reach outside of the physical library building and hold pop-up library events in locations around the county.

“Transportation is an issue in Fluvanna and I realize that some individuals and families have a hard time getting to the library – we would like to bring our programs to them,” said Hoffman. “We are slowly working on this and will continue to look for other opportunities to expand this goal as staffing permits.”

Every year during the summer Hoffman holds a huge summer reading program with performers, reading goals, workshops and activities. Almost all of the staff and volunteers participate in the planning, which takes months. Last year the theme was “libraries rock,” and this year’s theme is “a universe of stories” to celebrate the 50thanniversary of the landing on the moon.

For this year’s program, the Master Naturalists and Master Gardeners will work with the library staff. There will be activities related to Star Wars, robotics, Lego parties, astronaut training, and tons of reading. The Friends of the Library sponsors everything, which allows this program to be free to the public.

Throughout the more than 20 years that Hoffman has worked in libraries, she has seen them evolve as technology continues to advance. Fluvanna’s library offers not only eBooks and audiobooks, but it also has Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone offers 30 languages to learn or a universal class, which has over 500 classes for the community to take.

However, public libraries all across the United States struggle with staying relevant and vital to their communities.

“I feel that a library should be the heart of the community and it should constantly change to meet the needs of a changing population. It never hurts to try new things and experiment – if something doesn’t work, let it go and move on,” said Hoffman. “The fast pace of changing technology and how people use the library is part of this. Technology and e-services are popular and constantly growing and changing the aspect of today’s library.”

Here in Fluvanna, the library has become a part of the community. The library evolved from a quiet public space to a place similar to a community center that offers more than just books. Fluvanna library offers free programs, books, movies and television shows, magazines, music, eBooks, streaming and more.

“We have something for almost everyone and everything is free,” Hoffman said. “The Friends of the Library support a wide variety of free programs like Lego builder party, preschool story time, Friday movies on the first and third Friday of every month, summer and winter reading programs, and more.”

While trying to stay relevant and keeping up with technology can be challenging, one of the most rewarding things about working at Fluvanna’s library for Hoffman is reaching individuals and having an impact on their lives. For Hoffman, this could be finding the perfect book for a child reluctant about reading, or even offering computer help by editing a job-hunter’s résumé.

Eventually, Hoffman would love to expand the library to another location within the county. This could mean an actual branch in another area of the county to provide better access, or it could be a wi-fi hot spot kiosk location.

“It is like a Red Box, but for library materials and internet access for downloading eBooks and online database research,” said Hoffman.

In her free time, Hoffman enjoys spending her down time quietly. When she is not reading, she enjoys baking and cooking, especially when it comes to trying new recipes and experimenting with foods. Other times she gathers with friends for a homemade meal.

“I like to plan out my weekend reading so I can stay up all night and read a great book. I enjoy a good romantic suspense or thriller, but also enjoy military history,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman is also a big believer in constantly learning. Currently she is working on crochet, but usually gets interrupted by a good book. She is also debating which language she would like to try next.

Hoffman has a big extended family. Her parents and brother live in upstate New York and her other brother works for John Deere. She has two nieces, two nephews and many aunts, uncles and cousins. Her dad’s side of the family holds a huge family reunion every July 4 on Keuka Lake in New York and an annual cookie bake weekend in December.


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