It’s better to give than to receive — but the latter has its advantages too.
Molly Hetrick is the new manager of philanthropy at Schlow Centre Region Library, where she works with the recently formed Schlow Foundation to create additional fundraising opportunities.
During this year’s Centre Gives, Hetrick helped Schlow obtain the highest number of unique donors — 413.
Below, Hetrick talks more about growing up in Bellefonte and the right way to network.
Q: Can you remember the first book that you read cover to cover?
A: I’m pretty sure it was “Little House on the Prairie,” because my mom read all of those books to me when I was very small and so as I was learning to read I eventually was able to read those on my own. Sometimes we would turn out all the lights, use oil lamps, cook over a fire and pretend to be living like the Ingalls, or I would turn my treehouse into the little house and pretend to be Laura. I had a big imagination.
Q: You attended Penn State so there’s a good chance that Schlow Library was on your radar. Do you recall when and what your first impression was?
A: I grew up in Bellefonte so as a kid I spent a lot of time at the library there. Trips to downtown State College to the “big” library were a treat, and I remember the old Schlow building, which seemed so large as a kid. It was fun to explore since we did not go there as often, so I remember it as an adventure.
Q: How have you seen the library grow or change since then?
A: I remember when the new library building was being built, and there was a temporary space on Fraser and how amazing the current library building was when construction was completed. I think the current building is really beautiful and inviting. My favorite spot is actually midway up the stairs, where you can stop and look up into the cupola to the weather vane.
Q: Where would you like to see it go in the future?
A: People often ask about the future of libraries since things are becoming increasingly digital, but I see the future of the library to continue to have both a physical presence and an online presence. When I joined the team at Schlow last July, I was really amazed at the variety of online resources available for free to the community. Free music downloads, language classes, e-books — patrons can literally be users of Schlow library without actually visiting the physical location. There is really something for everyone, and I think that is the important part for the future.
Q: What do you look for in a job?
A: I look for a cause that I believe in or tasks that I feel good about doing, as well as things that challenge me. My time as the supervisor at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center was challenging because the center was growing so quickly and for many years that provided a lot of challenges as well as something I believed strongly in protecting and sharing with the community. My decision to come to Schlow to work in donor relations and development was a leap of faith for me. I had done fundraising at the nature center, but to make it my full focus was taking a chance. But it was a whole new challenge, in a place I believe in, with people I believe in. As it turns out, it was a great move and the patrons and staff at the library have really welcomed me.
Q: When you accepted your position at Schlow, what was the first goal that you set for yourself?
A: The first goal I set for myself was to get to know how the library worked from the inside and to begin getting to know what the library means to patrons. I was fascinated to see the behind the scenes of how books are processed and the small army of staff and volunteers who keep all the systems at the library moving. I also wanted to learn what the library means to patrons, what they value most and what services they use most, or even why they choose not to come into the library but use the online resources. This helped me to start understanding the generous donors at the library and why people choose to give to support the programs and activities they care about or value as important.
Q: Where do you go for a quiet moment during the day?
A: One of the coolest things I learned when I joined the staff at Schlow is that the library is not a hushed environment, it’s OK to talk in the library. But there is a quiet area that looks out over the corner of Allen and Beaver, so this is my favorite place to go when I need a few minutes of quiet. Working downtown is really fun so I also sometimes just go for a walk around the block.
Q: What role do you think that a library occupies in a community?
A: Now more than ever, I see that the library is a vital resource to the community. By providing free resources, books, services, programs, entertainment, education — the library really is a hub for the community to gather for a lot of purposes. Whether it’s a new family who wishes to meet other people, kids researching something for school, someone using the computers to job search or create a resumé — all of these are examples of how vital the library is to the community. It’s important that we can continue to offer these free services and activities to everyone.
Q: Networking seems like it would play a pivotal role in your job. Have you always been good with people or is it a skill that you’ve had to develop along the way?
A: I think I’ve always been good with people. I love getting to know people, and I’m usually comfortable in social settings. About eight years ago I started doing freelance work as a professional development trainer, teaching workshop sessions and training programs on business skills like networking, business etiquette, customer service and civility training. Networking is by far the request I get the most. People like to learn special techniques for introductions, starting a conversation and working a room of strangers. And usually after I teach a program, people say “Now I want to watch you network and see if you can do what you tell us to do.” And I can. My advice to people is to consider a room full of strangers as a room full of exciting opportunities and be excited about the amazing people you are about to meet. It helps take the fear out of talking to strangers.
Q: What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?
A: I think I’ve received a lot of wisdom and advice over the years from my family but one piece I always remember is that whatever you do, you have to be able to look yourself in the eye the next morning. So in business or in personal life, whatever actions I take or things that I say, I have to do them with honesty and integrity so that I can look myself in the eye the next day.