Long-Serving Librarian Steps Down

Long-Serving Librarian Steps Down

Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one. ~ Neil Gaiman

If that is accurate, and I believe it is, Maxine Paquette, the former East Smithfield Public Library manager, has given the right books to thousands of people during the past 47 years.

Maxine retired in February and had an extraordinary career to reflect on. Even though it may not have been her first career choice, things could not have worked out better for her or for the town.

Maxine began her library career when she was still in high school, back when there was a one-room library on Homestead Avenue in Georgiaville. It was a part-time job that she enjoyed, but she went off to college and earned an undergraduate degree in physical education, with aspirations of becoming a teacher. While waiting for a position in a school to open, she took a temporary job working at Wheaton College in the computer room before getting opportunities as a substitute teacher. During this time, Maxine got married and started a family. That’s when she got the call that put her on the career path that she followed for much of the last five decades.

“When my son was about 10 months old, a library job at the Esmond Library in the neighborhood center opened up,” Maxine says. “I was asked to come in a couple nights a week, and I didn’t hesitate.”

Maxine remained there during the growth and expansion of East Smithfield Public Library, an exciting time that culminated in the establishment of the facility in its present-day location at 50 Esmond Street.

“I started out working at the desk,” Maxine says. “Once we moved to the Dorothy Dame building, I did many jobs, including working the Children’s Story Hour, and eventually every aspect of the library.”

Maxine’s aunt was Elodie Blackmore, the library director at the time, who retired in 2017 after serving there for 63 years. It was Elodie who encouraged Maxine to go back to school for a master’s degree in library and information studies. She did just that, getting into the master’s program at URI and earning her degree in 2004. She continued working, mainly in reference, but all aspects too, then becoming the library manager.

Some may think library work is confined to handling books and periodicals, and while that is part of it, Maxine always worked best with people. These interpersonal connections are what made her job so enjoyable, and it was why she did it for so long.

“I did most of the training of all the new employees,” Maxine says. “Working day-to-day with my co-workers is one thing I always looked forward to. There have been so many good people I’ve been fortunate to work with through the years, becoming good friends with many of them.”

The lifeblood of a library might be its books, but the staff are the heart, and its patrons are the soul of the place. Without patrons, the library doesn’t exist. The people who visit East Smithfield Public Library keep it alive, and nobody understands that more than Maxine. Her patrons appreciate her just as much. On her very last day at work, a long-time patron approached her and extended her an open invitation to come over for tea, and to knit and crochet together.

“We’ve always had great patrons who come into the library,” Maxine says. “I feel fortunate when someone comes in to see me and just chat. That’s always special.”

Maxine may be retiring from daily employment at the library, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be around sometimes. She’s made it known to the staff that if they are ever in a bind and need someone to fill in, she will be available. She also indicated that she would be willing to volunteer to the do the “weeding” that needs to be done, which is the discarding of the older books that are no longer circulating in the collection.

“After working 47 years, being home every single day is going to take some getting used to,” Maxine says. “It’s a big change.”

No doubt, she will be missed. And while she doesn’t have any immediate plans to take up a new hobby, she will have more time to spend with her family, and ironically, more time to read.

“I would see people taking out four or five books at a time, when I was lucky if I could get through one book in three weeks,” Maxine says. “Now that I’m not working, I’m hoping to be one of those people who takes out multiple books at a time.”

We wish Maxine luck, and we thank her for her service to the town of Smithfield.

Libraries are important to their communities, and they will always be around if people like Maxine work there.

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