New Salem Public Library director retiring after 23 years

  • After 23 years in the role, Diana Smith is retiring as New Salem Public Library director. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 10/1/2021 2:00:49 PM

NEW SALEM — When Diana Smith took over as its director, the New Salem Public Library was a one-room, one-computer institution across the street from where it is now. Twenty-three years later, Smith is retiring and the library is sitting pretty at 23 South Main St. with five computers and a meeting/event space.

“And we need it, because it’s a small town and the library really enjoys putting on gardening or educational programming and things like that,” she said in the space on Thursday, her last day on the job. The building originated as a two-room schoolhouse and was then a bookstore until 2006.

A previous part-time employee of the Wendell Free Library, Smith noticed the job opening nearly 2½ decades ago and applied.

“At the very last minute, I submitted my résumé and they hired me,” she recalled. “And I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s just been a wonderful job and a wonderful town to work in. The people here are really great. And we’ve done a lot.”

The town plans to celebrate Smith’s career and retirement with an outdoor event at the library from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3.

“I think one of the things that the community just appreciates most is she’s always had this calm, steadfast presence and she’s brought that to the library,” said New Salem Public Library Trustee Judith Northup-Bennett.

Prior to March 2020 — also the month the COVID-19 pandemic affected virtually every aspect of American life — the town did not have reliable internet access, meaning the library was filled with people doing their work and schoolwork. Northup-Bennett said Smith “has been at the forefront for all the technology updates,” even bringing the Hulu streaming service to the library this summer.

Northup-Bennett said Smith’s contributions have been especially impressive considering the library director is paid for a 19-hour workweek.

“She’s accomplished a lot, so she’s obviously been a very good manager of her time,” Northup-Bennett said.

Smith said she plans to enjoy some time to herself in retirement. She had wanted to travel, but has decided to put that off until the pandemic is resolved. She recently started taking an online art class with instructor Christine Harrison — her roommate from San Francisco State University.

“It’s … very nice, because we hadn’t been in touch in a long time,” Smith said. “I decided to reach out to her and then I found out she taught art classes online.”

Smith, 68, mentioned she worked in a library in high school and worked a few hours a week at the Wendell Free Library before learning of the job opening in New Salem. To become a library director without a master’s degree in library science, she said, she had to take four courses in five years for certification.

The California native majored in clothing and textiles, and worked in that industry after she graduated. She and husband Chris Smith moved to Massachusetts decades ago to study macrobiotics with Michio Kushi, who helped popularize within the United States the diet based on the Chinese cosmological principles of yin and yang that consists of whole cereals and grains supplemented with beans and vegetables. The Smiths, who also homestead, eventually moved to Wendell.

Northup-Bennett explained employee Linda Chatfield will serve as interim library director, and the trustees are in the process of exploring all options and setting up a search committee to find a permanent replacement for Smith.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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