May 16, 2012 - For almost 15 years, she was the friendly face at the Oxford Public Library who recommended books that stirred children's imaginations, read entertaining stories filled with colorful pictures to wide-eyed wee ones and helped kids pick out silly puppets to play with.
After almost 15 years of faithful service at the Oxford Public Library, Shae Smith hung up her puppets and shelved her last book as head of youth services when she recently retired. Photo by CJC. (click for larger version)
To anyone who knows her, it's obvious that Shae Smith absolutely, positively loved her job as head of youth services.
It's actually quite hard to imagine the library without her now that she's officially retired from the 530 Pontiac Rd. institution.
It comes as no surprise that it's the kids she misses most.
"I've always enjoyed working with children," said Smith, who's lived in Lake Orion for 23 years. "I've worked with children my whole life."
Prior to her employment at the library, Smith was a teacher in Kentucky and Georgia. Later, while living in Michigan, she saw the Oxford library's advertisement seeking an assistant librarian for the children's department and she thought, "What the heck."
It turned out to be one of the best decisions she ever made because it gave her the opportunity to continue working closely with kids, helping them learn, grow and develop as both readers and people.
"Children are so honest and appreciative," she said. "They're just fun to be around."
Smith will "never forget" the time a little girl walked up to her and asked if she could get another "wood nut" book.
Smith didn't have the slightest idea what the girl was talking about, but she searched the computer anyway. After not finding anything matching that description in the system, the little girl informed her that she had just returned a "wood nut" book to the library.
When Smith checked the book return area, she found it. It was entitled "Who Done It?" The girl was pronouncing it as "wood nut."
"I just thought it was so cute," Smith said.
Smith noted it was always "very rewarding" to see a child's "bright eyes" and "giant smile" whenever she found just the right book to suit their tastes or interests.
"They'd get so excited – they'd practically hug the book," she said.
Smith is pleased to see that despite the omnipresent influence of television, video games, cell phones and the internet, children still enjoy coming to the library and reading books, be they in paper or electronic form.
"A good library starts with the children's department," she said. "It has to be very exciting and lively to keep them coming back. They are the future patrons.
"Over the years, Smith has happily watched the children's summer reading program "grow by leaps and bounds."
"My first year, the program had about 75 kids sign up for it," she said. "Last year, we had close to 700."
So, how does Smith plan to spend her well-deserved retirement? Being around children, of course. Except these young ones are her four beloved grandchildren.
"I just want to be able to spend some more time with them," she said. "Two of them live in Pittsburgh, so I don't see them as much as I'd like to. I'll probably be putting more miles on my car."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.