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Historical reading: Newport Library undergoes programming resurgence

Librarian Sara-Marie Malowitz stands at the helm of the Newport Library and Community Center. Katie Nelson / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 3
The Newport Library in the early-1900s. File photo 2 / 3
PAWS to Read is at the Newport Library every Tuesday night for young readers to improve their reading skills in a judgement-free environment. Katie Nelson / RiverTown Multimedia file photo 3 / 3

NEWPORT — Gazing around the one-room library, the cozy setting stands out: the room is filled with board games, armchairs, couches, a play area and, on Tuesday nights, a well-trained dog helping kids practice their reading skills.

Sara-Marie Malewitz, who was recently named the new library coordinator, said all of this has been donated over the past six years since the Newport Library and the Washington County Library system split.

The Newport Library and Community Center, truly a community outpost, has recently ramped up programming for both kids and adults under Malewitz's leadership.

"I want it to be a fun, safe place for kids," she said.

Each month the library offers at least one craft activity for kids that could be anything from snowmen in the winter, handprint fireworks for the Fourth of July, or clothespin caterpillars for spring. Most Saturdays sees family storytime, unless another creative kids' event — such as the recent pirate magician — is being held.

Malewitz's newest venture, inspired by her theater and education background, is called Books Alive.

The event is held the second Wednesday of every month, and after kids hear a story they unpack what they heard, act it out and play some theater games.

"It's a fun way to learn more about the story," she said.

Malewitz is also hoping to launch some programs for adults as well, starting with an open crafters day, starting at 5 p.m. every fourth Saturday of the month. Participants can bring whatever hobby they want to work on, from crocheting to building a ship in a bottle. Whatever the knack is, it's welcome.

Much of the programming the library is able to provide is made possible from the book sales, always ongoing in the front lobby of the building.

People continue to donate to the library, and most books don't get two copies going into the stacks. So with the excess, they sell, and bring new games, crafts and fun to the library.

'Part of history'

The little library in Newport has been in its current building for over 120 years, but it just keeps changing, evolving and growing.

Though Malewitz is rapidly bringing new ideas for all ages to utilize the space, she said she owes a debt to predecessors. Former Newport librarian Jamie Smith set the foundation for the library made suddenly independent in 2012, and began to slowly modernize it.

Malewitz credits Smith with setting up the Dewey Decimal system, launching the PAWS to Read program for kids to read to dogs, and organizing the stacks. Having that foundation made it possible for her to concentrate on new and inventive programming.

It also allows Malewitz to keep track of the goal to keep the library as central to the community as it was when it was signed into being in 1889 — an action second only to the creation of the city of Newport.

Malewitz said she tries preserve the library's history, but is "trying to move with the time too."

Being in the building feels like stepping back in time, until looking over to the south wall lined with computers.

Volunteering at the library is "like being part of history," Malewitz said.

The library currently keeps semi-regular hours, but with more volunteers she said hours could be extended, especially on Fridays and Saturdays.

There are currently five regular volunteers, that Malewitz said she's blessed to have. But if she's dreaming big, she said she'd love to be able to match the open hours of the county libraries.

To volunteer, call or email the library at 651-459-9631 or library@newportmn.com, or attend the monthly volunteer open house; the next starts at 3 p.m. Aug. 14.

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