Director Kyle Neugebauer and Innovative Programming Librarian Janie Downey Maxwell are leaving Thomas Memorial Library in early 2020 to pursue new career paths. Liz Gotthelf / For The Forecaster

CAPE ELIZABETH — Two Thomas Memorial Library staff who made their mark at the local institution are leaving to make their mark in the arts.

Director Kyle Neugebauer is leaving the library after four years on Jan. 24, and Innovative Programming Librarian Janie Downey Maxwell is leaving on Feb. 21 after two and a half years on the job.

The town accepted applications until Dec. 27 in the search to replace Neugebauer, who is starting a business creating and selling photography, fiber crafts and pottery. Town Manager Matthew Sturgis said the town is hoping to have a new director in place by end of January or early February.

Neugebauer has been dabbling in photography for years, but began to take it more seriously when he moved to Maine six years ago and developed an interest in nature photography. Over time, he began to explore how his images could be used in other mediums to create everyday products that were memorable, and also became interested in other art forms.

Neugebauer is mostly self-taught and hasn’t had any formal training except for community education classes. Although quitting a day job to pursue a dream may be daunting, Neugebauer has done his homework, meeting with SCORE – Service Corps of Retired Executives – a nonprofit that provides resources to help small businesses get off the ground. He plans to sell his items online and at craft fairs.

“I’m going to try to mash these things up into a viable, creative business,” he said.

The library is conducting a search to replace Maxwell, who is traveling for seven months while she writes a sequel to her novel, “Gunny Malone, an Irish Love Story.” Maxwell is also the author of the blog www.organizationalhabits.com and is involved in local theater.

“Gunny Malone” takes place in Ireland in the early to mid-1800s, and was inspired by research Maxwell did on her family and Irish ancestry.

Maxwell has already done the preliminary research for the sequel, which will take place in the 1860s and pick up where the first novel left off. Maxwell said over seven months, she will journey to the locations where the story is set.

“I will write in place where the novel happens,” she said.

Her journey will take her to South America, Ireland and across the United States.

Maxwell’s first book was self-published, but she said after speaking with numerous local authors who frequent the library, she feels a bit savvier and will pursue a publisher when her second book is complete.

“I’ve met so many great writers here. I feel like I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “I read a lot before I came here, but I’ve been exposed to so many interesting books. Talk about lifelong learning.”

Leaving the library is bittersweet for these two library staff members. While excited to leave to pursue their interests, both will miss a job they’ve really loved.

“It’s been a good run,” said Neugebauer.

Neugebauer came on board at Thomas Memorial Library just after a major library renovation project. He has worked to bring renewed interest in the library and sustain it so people continue to visit “once the new library smell wears off,” he said.

“Kyle’s desire to expand and improve the offerings at the Thomas Memorial Library has shown him to be a valuable asset as our director,” Sturgis said in an email. “Kyle came on board just as the library was completing its renovation, and assisted the town in beginning this new era for the library. He will be missed.”

Maxwell’s position was created in part to initiate programming that appeals to a variety of people, including a wildlife series with live animals, chair yoga, a songwriter’s group and live author talks, as well as eight different discussion groups.

“I try to get all ages interested. That’s the fun of programming,” Maxwell said. “Kyle’s been the best boss ever. He said to follow my gut.”

Neugebauer said the mix of programming Maxwell has brought in, as well as interactive programming from the children’s librarian that includes baby doll storytime and yoga storytime, not only helps bring people to the library, but creates regular patrons.

“Janie brought enthusiasm, creativity in programming, and a flair for marketing that helped improve the library experience for the community,” Sturgis said.

The Thomas Memorial Library has just under 5,000 cardholders, according to Neugebauer. There are also those who come just for specific programs.

“Circulation is steady, and the parking lot fills up regularly,” he said.

The library also has an art gallery, a rotating wall display of items of interest to patrons, and a staff-curated diverse collection of magazines, that, like the diverse programming, exposes people to new ideas, Neugebauer said.

Maxwell said during her upcoming journey, there is one place she will frequently visit to work on her writing, attend local programs and have discussions with people.

“My first stop will be the library,” she said.

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