Chester’s Whiting Library welcomes new director

New Whiting Library director Gail Zachariah. Photo by Donna McNeill-Hudkins.

By Cynthia Prairie
©2023 Telegraph Publishing

Chester’s Whiting Library has a new library director, Gail Zachariah,  a Westminster resident and head of engagement and youth services at the Keene, N.H., Public Library for 23 years before her departure in August.

She will be the second library director since Deirdre Doran resigned last spring. High school librarian Pamela Spurlock-Johnson  Johnson-Spurlock served from December 2022 to mid-September 2023.

On Tuesday, Zachariah made her inaugural appearance at the Whiting, greeted by her small staff  — Youth Services Librarian Carrie King and Assistant Librarian Colleen Garvey — and a brand new computer that she couldn’t find the password to. The soft-spoken Zachariah, who was named New Hampshire’s Youth Librarian of the Year for 2011, was unconcerned.

In a short conversation with her in front of her inaccessible computer, Zachariah, who retired, according to the Keene Sentinel, “to focus on the health and to travel,” said when she saw the Whiting job posting, she thought it was less hours and less stress than in Keene. And her new commute shaves 10 minutes off the old one.

While she’s never worked at such a small library before, she was a consultant to small regional libraries in Ohio for a number of years and upon her move to Vermont 25 years ago, worked at the Springfield Library.

At the Whiting, Zachariah said she’d like to see more community programs, more opportunity for discourse and conversations and more young adult programs.  During her tenure at the Keene Library, the Young Adult Literature collection went from 999 to 6,831, according to the Keene Sentinel.

Speaking about the hiring process, Board of Trustees Secretary Donna McNeill-Hudkins told The Telegraph on Monday that the trustees’ hiring committee wanted to move relatively fast since — during the previous search — the board was new to the process and “we didn’t quite know what we were doing and where to look.” But this time, the committee posted the opening with the Vermont and New Hampshire library associations, Simmons University of Boston, which has a school of library sciences, and on

Almost all the 10 applicants had a master’s in library science, she said, adding that two candidates came from Texas and one from Mississippi, “three or four from Vermont ” and one the Vermont State College System.  The panel ended up with six candidates, then three or four for the “final final interview” with the entire board, which whittled the group down to two, Zachariah and one of whom was from Texas.

The board decided that Zachariah’s supervisory experience and the fact that she has also gotten a lot of grants at Keene were crucial. Zachariah said she hasn’t totaled the amounts of the grants she has received but that the largest single grant to date is $250,000.

McNeill-Hudkins also noted that when Zachariah visited the library recently “she asked really good questions.”

Asked whether the fact that the library does not offer health insurance, but instead offers a health stipend, caused any hesitation in hiring, McNeill-Hudkins said no, since candidates could get insurance on their spouse’s plan. But in the meantime, two members of the Select Board and two members of the Board of Trustees have begun looking at the issue. “While they do get a stipend, it is the other benefits that town employees get. We have to deal with the structure between the town government and the library board and the costs. It may not happen this year. But maybe in 2025.”

Zachariah will be paid $50,000 a year plus the health stipend.



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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Matthew Gorsky says:

    As a note, Account and Computer access were resolved later that same day by the IT support the Library has. First day hiccups are a thing.


    Great job, Library Board! Best of wishes to our new library director!