Former Children’s Librarian Nicole Lane Takes Lead Role
By Ray Smith
From Issue 14: Spring 2012
In 2008, Librarian Nell Boucher successfully launched the Gardiner Library in its new home and managed it until she left last November to become the Archivist at Mohonk Mountain House. The Library’s board soon realized they did not have to look that far afield for Nell’s replacement. In January 2012, Nicole Lane who was then the Children’s Librarian, assumed overall responsibility as Library Manager.
Early training for managing the Gardiner Library? Get an undergraduate degree in psychology; spend two years working under a master baker in a start-up artisanal bakery in Lawrence, Kansas; move to Brooklyn; start a bakery in Park Slope; begin the working day around 8:00 at night and put in fifteen or so hours a day seven days a week for six years. How did Nicole Lane, get from there to managing a thriving library?
While at college in Madison, Wisconsin, Nicole met her future husband, Joseph Rodriguez, a percussion player who worked with young men with brain injuries and also at high end restaurants. Both Nicole and Joseph had an interest in whole and organic foods and when they moved to a yoga center in Boulder, Colorado, Nicole worked with a well-known vegan chef. Over the next few years they lived in Boulder, and in Lawrence, Kansas. Joseph worked as a stone mason, then a produce manager at a food co-op and Nicole worked as a cheese and food demo department manager at a vegetarian natural foods store and a deli manager at a food co-op. They continued to think about opening their own place and got intrigued by an artisan bread bakery with a Spanish wood-fired oven being built in Lawrence. “It was just this amazing place,” Nicole says. “We decided to try to get jobs there,” Nicole lit up with the recollection. “It was Joseph and me. The man who was part owner and ran the bakery was Thom Leonard―basically, one of the best artisan bread-makers in this country. He was using all organic ingredients; he was doing all naturally leavened bread; we shaped all the loaves by hand; we scaled them by hand. Everything was by hand. We had a big mixer, of course.”
Joseph and Nicole worked with Thom for about two years, fell in love with artisanal bread and promptly changed their business plan. They travelled around the country looking for a good site to start their business. After a year or more of frustration they took a break to visit Nicole’s parents in New York City. Joseph had never been to New York but fell in love with the place, and neither one of them had spent time in Brooklyn. Even Nicole seemed a bit incredulous recalling, “We discovered Park Slope had no bread bakery. There was a retail space for a bakery called Regina Bakery. This was gorgeous space. A big old stone building. A huge window where all the breads could be displayed and then the door, a big wooden door on a slant. It was just perfect. A week later we were walking by and there was a “for rent” sign in the window. And we got it.” Uprising Bread Bakery opened its retail outlet on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope with a production facility in Sunset Park in 1997.
For six years Nicole and Joseph worked fifteen hour days, seven days a week so their customers could have fresh, warm bread early in the morning. “It was like living in this other dimension,” Nicole remembered. But with their daughter Ariana Rodriguez’s birth in August 2002 and now two stores, those long hours became way less attractive. “We could not run our business the way we were and spend the time we wanted raising our family.” They decided to sell the business and agreed that it made sense for them to be in different professions.
“My daughter’s favorite thing was always reading. When all the two year olds are running around and couldn’t sit still, Ariana would sit in my lap for three hours and listen to me read. She got me re-interested in children’s literature. I just realized how important books were to kids and how they could open up so many worlds and so many doors. I love working with children. So I decided to go back to school.”
In 2005, Joseph, Nicole and Ariana moved to Gardiner and Nicole applied and was accepted at Bank Street College of Education in New York City. For four years she commuted, took courses, tutored and worked as a student teacher, ending with a master’s degree in general education and literacy.
Over the past three years as Children’s Librarian, Nicole has made full use of the new library space for her extensive children’s programs. They include individual activities for children from birth to eighteen months; two and three year olds; four and five year olds; a knitting and chess program for children; and the use of Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) who are ideal reading companions because they do not judge, laugh or criticize. Children read at their own pace and the dog will always listen attentively . . . whatever the subject. The rest of Nicole’s background will pay off further now that she is head of the library because of her experience managing a business, working with the public and creating a community gathering place. She is and will still be very involved with her children’s programs.
Joseph seems to have found a good spot, too. For the past six years, he’s been the baker at the Center for Discovery outside Monticello, NY. It’s the largest employer in Sullivan County and works with severely disabled youth and adults on over a hundred acres of organic and biodynamic working farmland. There are over 300 residents and about 100 who come in for the day. The goal is to help those at the Center develop to their fullest potential.
As Nicole and I parted I lamented the difficulty of getting a really good French baguette anywhere nearby—one whose crust cracks and explodes when you bite into it but whose texture has flavor and chewiness. Her parting comment was, “Wait till Joseph makes another batch of baguettes.”