Diana Smith, Director of Human Resources, Hartford Public Library, moved to Connecticut from Westchester, NY in late 2018. Diana spoke to MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about her transition to living in Hartford, her approach to business leadership, and the library’s role in the community.
NAN PRICE: How did you get the background and skills necessary to be in your role?
DIANA SMITH: I’ve been in Human Resources for the past 18 years. I started out working in consulting in the private sector, which is where I got most of my initial business acumen and HR knowledge. I transitioned into the nonprofit sector for higher education and then I moved into libraries.
As I moved up the ranks in management, I became passionate about acquisition. That’s something I bring to my approach—making sure we’re hiring the appropriate people, helping them grow, and building out their skillsets.
NAN: Tell us more about your leadership style.
DIANA: Leadership in my role is about building a strong HR function with the best practices in place for the library and helping build, reenergize, and execute our CEO’s current mission. I’m also doing the most I can to partner with my peers and help them grow as leaders. My leadership style involves managing relationships within the organization and shaping its future plans.
NAN: Let’s talk about talent acquisition.
DIANA: A lot of companies struggle with a skills gap. They need to build on their talent and ensure their employees are growing their skills so they can eventually move beyond their current positions. And we want them to build skills here—not go outside Hartford but grow their skills within Hartford.
When I think about the library, I also think of the greater community, because that’s who we serve. I help actualize that part of our mission by reaching out to the community and making sure we have a diverse talent acquisition strategy that reaches out to local colleges and high schools.
We’ve developed partnerships with the Department of Education and local community-based businesses, which creates a robust approach to helping develop and impact the community outside of the library. The library also has a wonderful partnership with the University of Connecticut and a few neighboring library schools and we’re starting to do more with college recruitment and internships.
NAN: In what way does the library contribute to the overall economic impact in Hartford?
DIANA: It goes back to our mission. I think of the Hartford Public Library as a cultural education institution. So, we have many resources and programs for adult education, whether someone wants to take an English as a second language class or they sign up for a class about how to do a business plan.
The library is funded by the city, so we’re not revenue generating. The partnerships we’ve formed with local organizations help make the economy more vibrant here in terms of people having access to services and programs.
NAN: You moved here from the New York area. Tell us a little about your transition. What do you like most about being in Hartford?
DIANA: I feel like there’s a very vibrant, interconnected business community. I live downtown—so do a lot of other professionals. I love that I can walk to all kinds of venues from great restaurants to local theaters. You can set up a life here.
The MetroHartford Alliance was one of the first organizations to help me navigate being in a new town. The Alliance helped me see the partnership among local businesses, organizations, the government, educational institutions, and professionals in the business community. It’s fantastic to see they’re all working together.
When I first moved here, I attended some Alliance events including Cocktails and Conversation and Hartford Encounters, which really highlighted that Hartford is a walking town. That event was run by Leadership Greater Hartford, the Alliance, and the Capital Region Development Authority.
Those types of events have been helpful for networking and for informational purposes. I’ve been building relationships and meeting people from all the different business sectors.
I see a lot happening with the city’s growth, too. The new train system started when I moved here, and Infosys made its decision to open its innovation hub around that time. It’s been exciting to see more global companies coming to the area.
There’s so much going on here in Hartford. I’ve been able to plug in—I even know about the city’s future plans and designs, which is very comforting for someone in a new city. It’s been helpful to have a sense of being a part of something that’s growing and see a clear, coordinated future plan.