Next chapter: Leverett Library welcomes  new director

LEVERETT — Ashley Blais of South Hadley has begun work as director of Leverett Library.

She takes over for Linda Wentworth, who left the post after 9½ years to take a job as head of collections at the Jones Library in Amherst.

Blais, who holds a master’s degree in library sciences from Simmons College in Boston, said she is eager to meet library patrons as well as other members of the community.

“Everyone’s been very friendly and welcoming,” she said in a recent interview.

The library is sometimes called the living room of Leverett, Blais said, because it provides a meeting place and social events for the town’s 1,876 residents.

“There are no stores or restaurants in the town,” she said, “so the library is really a place people come to hang out.”

She also pointed out that given the town’s lack of high-speed Internet access and spotty cellphone service, people use the library parking lot to use its Wi-Fi.

Blais said that while the town’s teenagers likely head to Amherst to socialize, elementary schoolchildren and toddlers come to the library. “It’s really a social center for the kids,” she said.

The library is located at 75 Montague Road, just down the street from the Leverett Elementary School. It has a weekly story time for toddlers and a community room that hosts yoga classes, tai chi and meetings of local groups.

Blais, who has lived in South Hadley for 10 years, was born in Charlottesville, Va. She moved to New Zealand when she was 6 years old, after her mother married a New Zealander, she said. Her family returned to the United States when she was 16.

After living in New Hampshire, where she worked as a garden designer, she and her husband, Jake, moved to South Hadley so he could attend the University of Massachusetts. He now works as an art director for Lego in Enfield, Conn. Their children, Alexander, 10, and Juliette, 6, attend the Hartsbrook School in Hadley.

Blais said she decided to pursue a degree in library sciences after seeing a sign for the Simmons College satellite program at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley.

“I was an English major, though I did garden design for 10 years,” Blais said. “So this is sort of a return to my roots.”

Since earning her library degree two years ago, she has worked part-time at the circulation desk at the Jones Library in Amherst. She also did an internship in the University of Massachusetts communications department.

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