West Haven Librarian & Never Quit Winner creates connections among strangers

The West Haven Library in West Haven, Connecticut, is a melting pot. Patrons of all different backgrounds and ages step foot through its doors. But no matter who visits the library, Carrie Bryant, a member of AFSCME Local 393 (Council 4), says she wants them to feel “seen and heard.”

“One thing I want to get across is that the library is much needed in the community,” said Bryant, a children’s library associate who’s been at the West Haven Library for nearly 11 years. “It’s a sense of community — a place for both adults and children to meet each other and have a safe place.”

Bryant has seen patrons grow from kids to high school graduates, and throughout her tenure at West Haven Library, she’s strived to nurture a sense of connection, learning and, most importantly, fun.

Bryant started at the library as a part-time library assistant, helping librarians with programming. But as she took on more responsibilities, she was given the role of children’s library associate.

“I wanted to create programs that were diverse,” Bryant says. “The great thing about it is everyone seems to be interested in learning about one another.”

A party for the Muslim holiday, Eid-al-Fitr, drew community members from all different backgrounds. The program was a hit, says Bryant.

According to Enrique Feliciano, who is the library’s part-time custodian, and who nominated Bryant for AFSCME’s Never Quit Service Award, “Carrie is always faithful to the library. She always goes above and beyond. The parents and children love her. They call her ‘Ms. Carrie.’”

Feliciano says that Bryant strives to run programs that will improve patrons’ lives, teaching them about things like nutrition or exercise. That’s in addition to more traditional literary events, games, crafts and more.

It was no surprise to Feliciano, then, that Bryant was recognized two years ago with Connecticut’s Support Staff of the Year Award.

“Carrie is bubbly,” says Felciano. “She serves you with a smile. I’ve never in the two years that I’ve been there seen her mad, never heard her say anything negative about anyone.”

Bryant, however, isn’t one to take credit for making West Haven Library a thriving local hub.

“It’s a great team at the library,” she says. “We all work really well together. I’m motivated by my co-workers, they also want to make the library a better place.”

While West Haven’s success is clearly the result of a great team, it always helps to have a standout player on the team, leading the way by example.