The New Gloucester Public Library reopened this week after its six-month closure. Library Director Lee Shaw and Assistant Librarian Emily Martin started in their new positions this month. Contributed / Emily Martin

NEW GLOUCESTER — Six months after budget disagreements closed its doors, the New Gloucester Public Library reopened this week under new leadership.

Lee Shaw and Emily Martin began their new positions as library director and assistant librarian, respectively, earlier this month. Former employees Suzan Hawkins and Carla McAllister were laid off last September following residents’ second rejection of the library’s budget. Voters approved the $102,033 library budget in a third election in December.

The approved budget is a $4,000 decrease from last year’s budget and funds both positions at 36 hours each with benefits. Last year’s budget funded the positions at 40 hours per week each.

Hawkins announced last December that she would not be reapplying to return as head librarian. She worked at the library for 38 years. McAllister reapplied for the assistant librarian position that she held for 12 years but was not rehired, according to Friends of the Library President Kathleen Potter.

McAllister could not immediately be reached for comment.

Potter said earlier this week that she’s “disappointed” that Hawkins and McAllister were laid off rather than furloughed and that McAllister wasn’t rehired, but that the new additions seem “imminently qualified” and “genuine and forthcoming.”

Library Board of Trustees Chairperson CeCe Sullivan Rohrbach said Wednesday that “ultimately, I think we’re slated to move forward with some really wonderful people that are going to do great things for the library,” but she declined to speak about the hiring panel’s decision.

The hiring panel included Sullivan Rohrbach, Town Manager Brenda-Fox Howard, Selectboard member Linda Chase and a librarian from another community.

In an interview Tuesday, Shaw, who grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and recently moved to Buxton, said that a temp job post-college sparked his interest in becoming a librarian and led him to a master’s program in information sciences at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Shaw has worked as a children’s librarian at the Wake County Library in North Carolina and at the Brooklyn Public Library in New York. He said after deciding to leave Brooklyn last year when the pandemic hit, he worked at the Effingham Public Library in New Hampshire for a few months before coming to New Gloucester.

“It’s really exciting, you know, because it’s very rare that you get the opportunity to kind of start from scratch after a closure,” he said. “I’m really interested in bringing my experience from other libraries and larger systems into this library and seeing if we can enhance our service to our patrons.”

Shaw said that he reached out to Hawkins, the former director, to “express my gratitude for what she’s done here.”

Martin, the new assistant librarian, grew up in Calais and has lived in Poland for the last 16 years with her husband and two daughters, she said in an email. She previously worked at the Lewiston Public Library, Paris Public Library and taught pre-K through sixth grade library classes at Oxford Hills School District.

“I was drawn to this position because of the community’s love of their library,” she said.

The library opened for lobby service Tuesday. To reserve a book for pickup or for more information, visit newgloucesterlibrary.org.

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