A circular headshot of our new Director, Maria Bernhey, with the text "Congratulations Maria Bernhey, City Librarian and Director."

We’re proud to announce NHFPL’s Maria Bernhey as our 10th City Librarian and Director!

Maria joined the NHFPL team in April 2022 as Public Services Administrator overseeing our 4 community branches as well as Young Minds and Family Learning systemwide. In her first year with us, she’s already led the charge on a great arsenal of systemwide initiatives including our robust “Libraries Are for

Everyone” offerings in collaboration with community partner organizations for New Haven Pride 2022 and this year’s “Black Authors Are Lit” programs highlighting “living Black history” in February. Internally, Maria launched a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging task force comprised of staff members from locations across the system and works tirelessly to enhance our family literacy offering in the year she’s been with us, Maria’s quickly found herself to be beloved by staff, library visitors, and community partners alike.

“When I think of Maria, the only quote that comes to mind is ‘A boss has the title, a leader has the people’,” said Manmita Dutta, Director of Advancement at the New Haven Free Public Library Foundation,

“Maria’s passion inspires and builds confidence. I’m so looking forward to working with her!”

Jeffrey Panetierre, an LTA at Wilson Branch Library agrees. “Maria has been a passionate advocate of the library and a true ally of the staff,” he said, “She is an excellent listener and follows through on what you ask of her. She attends meetings she isn’t required to be in, visits the branches, checks in to see if you need time off desk, and sincerely addresses the concerns brought to her.”

This sentiment echoes systemwide. Karina Gonzalez, our Public Services Administrator overseeing IT and Technical Services, states “Maria genuinely believes in public libraries. She has a lot of great ideas and is very tenacious. I’m excited to continue our work with her at the helm.” Rory Martorana, PSA overseeing Adult Services and systemwide Marketing and Communications, cites Maria as a “cherished mentor,” and states “I have learned so much from Maria. She’s too humble to ever take credit for it, but she’s brought a sense of stability to the system since we lost John Jessen to cancer. She’s the perfect example of what modern leadership should look like in public libraries and beyond.”

Maria’s kindness and empathy shines through in all of her interactions. It’s very apparent how much she cares about our libraries and the people who visit and work in them. “She’s friendly, helpful, down to earth, and you can tell she really cares and wants the best for not only the library but also the staff” said Abby Franz, LTA for Communications, “I admire her for her good-natured attitude and her ability to lead and communicate. I’m excited to see what she has planned for the library and the growth that she will initiate!”

Maria first fell in love with libraries as child. That love has endured throughout her life and brought her to her career at NHFPL. She has worked in urban libraries for the last twelve years and believes they are essential community hubs where everyone is welcomed and can exist and share experiences without judgment or expectation. “I see the role of the City Librarian at NHFPL as an advocate for a system that is already a trusted community resource with staff who care deeply about their work and impact in the lives of all who visit our great library,” Maria stated on the fact sheet provided as part of the Director search, “Libraries hold a very special place in my heart.”

Want more information? Read the full press release:


NEW HAVEN, CT –  The New Haven Free Public Library (NHFPL) is proud to announce the appointment of Maria Bernhey as the 10th City Librarian and Director, succeeding the late John Jessen. Bernhey will begin her new role on July 1, 2023. 

A passionate advocate for libraries and their role in the community, Bernhey (pronounced Bern – Ā) brings more than a decade of experience in the library field to the position. Bernhey currently serves as Public Services Administrator at the NHFPL, a position she has held since April 2022, where she provides administrative oversight for the four neighborhood branches (Fair Haven, Mitchell, Stetson, Wilson); systemwide youth services; and community outreach and training with a focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging to help foster a positive environment for all members of the NHFPL community; among other responsibilities. Prior to her tenure at NHFPL, Bernhey held a variety of branch manager and leadership roles at the New York Public Library (2015 -2022). In all these roles, she has demonstrated a strong commitment to providing high-quality library services and worked to develop and implement innovative programs and services that meet the needs of diverse urban communities. Bernhey is a graduate of Hofstra University and holds a Master of Library Science degree from Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY). She is a member of the American Library Association and the Connecticut Library Association.  

 “It is an incredible honor to be named City Librarian of the New Haven Free Public Library. I take great pride in working alongside a library team that is immensely passionate about their work and dedicated to serving and strengthening our community,” said incoming City Librarian Maria Bernhey. “Our libraries play an integral role in ensuring that New Haven is a welcoming, inclusive, and accessible place for residents and the community to gather, learn, engage, and connect. I am eager to lead NHFPL in our commitment to celebrating diversity, providing equitable access to information, and expanding essential services that foster growth in our community.” 

In her new role, Bernhey will be responsible for leading the New Haven Free Public Library in its mission to foster lifelong learning, inspire curiosity, and build community through shared access to resources, experiences, and opportunities for all. She will be responsible for overseeing the library’s five branches, which serves a diverse population of over 135,000 people. Bernhey believes that libraries are essential to lifelong learning, economic development, and civic engagement.  
After an extensive search and interview process, the NHFPL Board of Directors unanimously voted to approve Bernhey’s appointment on May 10. Acting City Librarian Maureen Sullivan, who was appointed in June 2022, will continue to lead the NHFPL until Bernhey begins in her new role on July 1st, 2023. 

Dr. Lauren Anderson, President of the NHFPL Board of Directors, said “It is a joy to announce Maria Bernhey’s appointment as the New Haven Free Public Library’s new City Librarian. Since joining the NHFPL, Maria has distinguished herself as a leader among her peers, has developed exceptionally strong rapport with staff at all levels, and has forged partnerships that deepen the Library’s commitments to equity and diversity through internal and external programming. This is an exciting moment in our Library’s history and an important time for public libraries nationwide. We all look forward to supporting Maria and her colleagues as they lead our beloved, award-winning NHFPL into its bright future as a model for what a library can do and be for its community.” 

Mayor Justin Elicker, said “Our libraries are incredible centers of learning, enrichment, connection, and community for our residents. Whether you’re looking for a great read, exploring a new topic or interest, needing to access critical resources, or wanting to connect with your neighbors at any number of community events, New Haven’s public libraries are the place to go. We’re fortunate to have a new city librarian in Maria Bernhey who is committed to ensuring that the NHFPL and all its branches remain vibrant and inclusive places for New Haveners to access all these opportunities and more. I look forward to working with Maria and our dedicated NHFPL staff in continuing to keep our libraries as accessible as possible and offering the highest level of services possible for our residents.”