August 13, 2020
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What goes around has come back around for Michael Hammond, who is returning to the Essex Library Board of Directors after a hiatus of more than a decade—and he’s bringing some new ideas. Photo by Julia Hammond

What goes around has come back around for Michael Hammond, who is returning to the Essex Library Board of Directors after a hiatus of more than a decade—and he’s bringing some new ideas. (Photo by Julia Hammond )

Michael Hammond: An Advocate for Libraries

Published July 31, 2019

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Michael Hammond is doing it again, serving once more after an 11-year break on the board of trustees of the Essex Library Association. Mike is now chair of the nominating committee and he is looking for skilled, community-minded people to fill vacancies on the board. He says potential trustees should have good judgment, work collaboratively with others, and recognize the value of the library to our community.

Nomination forms are available online at the library’s website and also at the circulation desk. People can self-nominate or submit the names of others who they think possess the interest and qualifications to be on the board.

Mike was president of the library board 11 years ago when Richard Conroy, who has just retired as executive director of the Essex Library, was hired. On July 1st, Deb Smith became the new executive director.

A 1997 book on the best 100 small towns in America that placed Essex at the top of the list led Mike to community involvement. After that distinction for the town, former Essex resident Bruce Lawson, a management consultant, organized a seminar open to community residents designed to produce a new crop of civic leaders and volunteers. Participants were expected, after finishing the program, to volunteer for town boards, commissions, and non-profit organizations.

Mike, who took the seminar, describes it as an invaluable experience. It focused on setting priorities in four areas: personal, social, spiritual, and career.

“It was like goal setting 101. There was lots of homework and values clarification exercises. You had to first learn to lead yourself before leading others,” Mike recalls. “It had a profound impact on me.”

Mike identified both education and food sufficiency as areas in which he was interested. The result was that Mike, whose two daughters were youngsters at the time, became involved with both the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries and the Essex Library.

“Kids benefited greatly from its [the library’s] programs and it was a place that I liked,” he says.

Professionally, Mike’s work involves a lot of reading but not of the non-fiction books and spy thrillers he takes out at the Essex Library. He is a lawyer whose office is local but whose clientele is not.

Mike is general counsel for Stack Sports, headquartered in Texas but with business interests throughout the world. Stack, a sports technology company, provides online services for a variety of areas, including managing registration and payment and setting up practice sessions for groups. Those groups include international organizations, professional teams, and local park and recreation leagues.

Mike’s job now demands not only a familiarity with law but with computers, which were not a part of his years of formal education.

“My law career parallels the development of the personal computer revolution,” he says.

What enabled him to learn was what he calls “portable ignorance,” the ability to ask a question “like a fourth grader”.

Mike never thought he would be a sports lawyer. In fact, he never thought he would be a lawyer at all. He was an English major at the University of Connecticut interested in writing. He asked a professor about internships and the teacher told him about a position at Connecticut Public Television. Mike’s first task, however, though a classic newbie’s function, had little to do with television: The producer sent Mike out to get him a sandwich.

Mike enjoyed the internship and subsequent television work enough to think about a career as a producer, but in the end rejected the idea and opted for studying law at the University of Connecticut Law School.

“Did I want to live in New York or Los Angeles? I couldn’t see myself spending every evening out going to meet with record producers. I am married, and close to my [extended] family,” he says.

Mike still has family in and around Newtown, where he went to high school.

Another college experience, Mike says, had a profound effect: a junior year abroad spent at the University of London.

“It was incredibly exciting; it completely changed the direction of my life,” Mike says. “I’d never been anywhere like it. I’d never lived in such a big city. I remember being on the plane wondering how I got here and then thinking every moment of my life has led up to this.”

Among those life-changing experiences, Mike met his wife Mary Beth, another UConn student studying abroad, at the University of London.

In London, Mike recalls he attended every play of the Royal Shakespeare Company that he could. The tickets he says, then were “cheaper than going to a movie in the United States.”

He also remembers that he walked everywhere during his London days, but since high school he has also been runner and he still is. He has done four half-marathons in the last year, in Cape Cod, Redding, Madison, and Fairfield.

Often the runs he does are for charity. He also has run the Chester Road Race for more than two decades.

“For me, it’s more of a ritual than a race,” he says.

He describes it as “hazy, hot, humid and hilly every year, but it’s a really nice community event.”

Mike tries to run between three and six miles at least three times a week. He used to run five or six times a week but admits, “My knees are getting older.”

As he thinks about how libraries have changed even since his first time on the Essex Board a decade ago, Mike points out the technical revolution they have undergone, today equipped with computers and able to provide what was once the basic function of libraries, loaning books, electronically.

“Libraries started out as private archives, collections of knowledge just for the wealthy. Then, after Ben Franklin Andrew Carnegie and others, public libraries made information accessible to every citizen,” he notes. “I think one can argue that libraries are one of the foundations of responsible democracy.”

And Mike points out that with cell phones and computers, we can now conveniently get information in other ways from vast private enterprises, but we miss the direct human contact. The library, he observes, still provides a publicly accessible place for human interaction.

“Many people lack the opportunity for face-to-face engagement. It’s nice to go to the library to talk to someone face to face, to help resolve questions,” he says. “You can satisfy your intellectual curiosity and meet a lot of nice people in the process.”



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