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Newport hires new library attendant

Jamie Smith, 29, takes over the role of library attendant at the Newport Public Library, filling a position that was left vacant in April. Smith has 12 years of experience in the library systems. (Bulletin photo by Scott Wente)

The Newport Library and Community Center has had its share of ups and downs since Washington County closed its branch facility nearly two years ago.

The city decided to launch its own library and accumulated donated books and materials, but later terminated librarian Mike Laughton, who helped to open the city-run facility.

Now Newport is hoping to turn a new page at the library.

Last month, the city hired Jamie Smith to take over duties as a part-time library attendant. With more than a decade of library experience, Smith, 29, said it was a career she never thought would become her passion.

While attending the University of Minnesota, majoring in English, Smith worked at the Hennepin County Library in Maple Grove as a public service attendant.

“I was originally just looking for a job to get me through college,” she admitted. “I didn’t think I would enjoy (working in a library) so much.”

The experience she had working at the established county library transpired into a 12-year career, during which she perfected customer service skills and obtained extensive cataloging knowledge.

In 2010, Smith signed on with Washington County’s R.H. Stafford Branch Library in Woodbury as a part-time clerk where she oversees general day-to-day operations. However, what attracted her to the position in Newport, she said, was the opportunity to work solo.

“The responsibility allows me to be my own boss, and run the library and make a lot of the decisions on how the books are organized,” Smith said. “I really enjoy the books and seeing what comes through the system each day. I also enjoy interacting with the public.”

Unlike the Washington County branch library, which is organized through a computer-automated cataloging system, the Newport library does not have a catalog system. Smith’s first project, she said, is organizing “a mass labeling project” in an attempt to get the books registered and cataloged.

“The only thing Newport has to distinguish the book as a library book is a stamp on the inside of the cover that says ‘Return to Newport,’” she explained. “The books don’t have labels on the spine, so if you stick it on a shelf at home you can’t tell if it’s a library book.”

While the library does have an Excel spreadsheet to help Smith keep track of books, she plans to use the Dewey Decimal System to establish a more concrete cataloging system.

“I have a lot of knowledge in that aspect from my work at Hennepin and Washington counties that I hope to implement here in Newport,” she said.

Her other duties include scheduling all the volunteers, checking out books to customers, receiving and processing library forms, and promoting the importance of reading.

“There are a lot of decent books to read here and a lot of children’s literature,” she said. “If you don’t want to go out and buy the expensive books, come into the library to read. This library is a place to visit where you know you’ll be happy and respected.”

City Administrator Deb Hill said recently that she is confident in Smith’s experience and said she is a great addition that will continue to help the library evolve.

“We’re letting her take the lead on a few things that would make her life easier and work to her advantage,” Hill said. “She brings a different perspective from her time at the other libraries, and I think she will be a wonderful addition to our community.”