- Associated Press - Saturday, August 15, 2015

BALTIMORE (AP) - Mary Hastler recently purchased an Apple Watch, but already the high-tech device has her thinking of ways she could improve service for her customers at Harford County Public Library.

“I’m just very curious about how I can take what I’m doing on the iWatch and bring it to our customers,” said Hastler, who has served as CEO of the library system since 2010. “I always get ideas outside of the library and bring them back to the library. So, stay tuned for that.”

That has been the trend for Hastler, who led the launch of the library system’s Innovation Lab and nationally known Little Leapers program.

Hastler first joined Harford County Library in 1996, and left for one year to join the Baltimore County Library system before returning.

Her innovative spirit and success in Harford County led to her statewide election recently as president of the Maryland Library Association.

Hastler, a Top 100 Woman, who has been involved with the organization for many years, said it was an honor to be elected.

As the group’s president, she’ll continue to be active on legislative issues and in raising awareness for libraries in the state and beyond.

“People think of them as dusty book collections,” Hastler said.

But she and the Maryland Library Association are working to change that.

While books are not disappearing from the state’s libraries, librarians are adopting the latest technology to improve the customer experience - providing materials in a variety of formats.

That includes electronic books, videos, downloadable material and more.

“No matter how you get your content or your children or your grandparents, we can provide that to you,” she said.

Libraries also partner with school curricula in many cases, providing classes in STEM, art and more.

“Schools are there during the finite time during the school year, and we’re there after that or on the weekend,” Hastler said.

Another goal includes providing the resources to help all students start school at grade level.

This summer, Harford County Library launched a superhero collection as part of its summer reading program. The program, intended to help engage all young readers, invites students to choose an action figure and then write and record their “adventures” for a week. Another group of students then will include their own stories.

“We’ll have a whole story finished by the end of the summer,” she said.

The program is intended to help students read, play, interact and develop their writing skills.

“Libraries are critical to our community, and not just in Harford County, but across the country,” Hastler said. “They are a wonderful resource that is always evolving and changing. IF you want to look at something that is new and different come to the library.

“It’s a very unique institution and something that should be treasured. I have the best job in the world.”

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Information from: The Daily Record of Baltimore, http://www.thedailyrecord.com

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