By Apara Borrowes
Bolton’s Roland Ochsenbein was elected chairman of the nine-member Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners on July 12, 2018. Ochsenbein has served on the board since his appointment as Commissioner by Governor Deval Patrick in 2014.
“It is a great honor for me to serve as chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and to work on behalf of libraries in Massachusetts,” said Ochsenbein, in a recent interview. “Founded in 1890, it is the first state library agency in the country. Our program is looked upon as a model around the country.”
Commenting on Ochsenbein’s election, Bolton Library Director Kelly Collins enthusiastically said, “The libraries in Massachusetts are very fortunate to have him working for and with them. We’re in the best possible hands as we plan for an exciting future!”
“I’ve always believed in public service as a high calling if one has the capacity—whether you are volunteering to help at a bake sale, or raising money for a good cause, or serving on a town board, or some other kind of work on behalf of the general good,” said Ochsenbein. “I have come to realize, after 17 years of volunteering on behalf of the betterment of libraries, that I can’t think of a better way to serve—a way that has such a wide impact across so many constituencies and demographics, across towns and cities, and for families and individuals.”
All MBLC Commissioners are volunteers appointed to five-year terms by the current governor, Ochsenbein explained, and the work of the MBLC includes overseeing statewide resource sharing of digital and print materials, state aid to public libraries, the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (which assists communities in planning for and funding library facilities), innovative statewide programming, the resident portal for online access to library resources, wide-ranging advisory support, continuing education, assistance during library emergencies, and preservation, and administering federal grant funding to libraries from the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act.
Ochsenbein recalled how he came to serve on the MBLC. “It all started with a knock on the door. My neighbor Ann Hurd, who was a library trustee at the time, knocked on my door in 2001 and asked if I would join the Bolton Library Building Planning Committee ‘for only one year’.”
Ochsenbein said Hurd’s request came shortly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and he thought, “Here was something that would improve the world.” Ochsenbein agreed to be chairman of the committee working to bring a new library to Bolton.
This committee’s work culminated five years later in the full funding of a new building that would be constructed to incorporate Bolton’s historic 1901 library into the new library on the same site, with the MBLC ultimately providing a $2.5 million Library Construction Program grant, the building planning committee raising $1 million through intensive fundraising led by Ann Hurd, and the town of Bolton providing matching funds.
Ochsenbein continued his work for the new library as co-chair with Pam Czekanski on the Library Construction Committee. Finally, nine years after Hurd’s knock on his door, the new Bolton Library was dedicated in February 2010, “on time and on budget.” Ochsenbein commended Collins for her part throughout the building project, saying she was, “centrally involved as a prime mover from the beginning; our North Star and guiding light.”
Inspired by his Bolton Library work, Ochsenbein said he served two 2-year appointed terms on the State Advisory Council on Libraries, under the auspices of the MBLC, and served as a grant reviewer for the MBLC through two rounds of the Public Library Construction Grant Program.
MBLC Commissioner Mary Ann Cluggish, who was MBLC chair until Ochsenbein’s election, and is now vice chair, offered, “I’m proud to say that I have enjoyed serving with Roland on the board and know that the chairmanship is in good hands. He has a thoughtful, inclusive approach to issues and has years of experience he gained through building a library in Bolton and participating in the direct grant program that impacts local libraries. Roland is also a leader in library advocacy.”
Ochsenbein and his wife, Cia, have lived in Bolton for 23 years. His service to the town of Bolton also includes five years with the Bolton Historical Commission, four years on the Florence Sawyer School Council, and three years on the Senior Tax Rebate Advisory Committee. In addition to his volunteer work, he’s completed a publishing industry career including executive positions with “two different Boston-based educational publishers before starting my own publishing and management consulting practice in 1995.”
“Libraries were always important in my life. My mother had been a library trustee,” noted Ochsenbein. “The positive impacts that public libraries can and do have is undeniable and substantial and they ripple on through generations! Whether it’s culture or education or opportunity or just entertainment one is after, public libraries are the great equalizer, providing benefit to all who want to partake.”