By Dustin Luca
---- — PLAISTOW — While serving as a school librarian, Sandown resident Jenn Dawley viewed reading as a gateway to which she holds the key.
“It can open so many doors, just seeing that light go on to engage them in something that truly excites them right in their heart,” she said. “It’s an awakening.”
Dawley has been tapped to lead Plaistow Public Library’s youth services department, starting May 5.
She replaces Nancy Chase, who left the library in November for a similar post at Haverhill (Mass.) Public Library, library director Cab Vinton said.
The first search ended with a single candidate and contract negotiations fell flat. Library officials started a new search, Vinton said, and Dawley almost didn’t make it.
“Just as we were about to close the application process, Jenn emailed me out of the blue,” Vinton said. “She said, ‘I don’t know if you have any openings, but I’m transitioning from the school library world to a public library world.’”
It will be quite a transition for Dawley. She started as a first grade teacher at St. Joseph Regional Catholic School in Salem in 1988, she said.
Dawley left in 1996 to become a stay-at-home mom for her children Katherine, now 18, and Thomas, now 13, she said.
She returned to St. Joseph in 2007. Four years later, she became a full-time librarian at Hampstead Academy and worked part time at Sandown Public Library.
She developed a reputation at both locations, which Vinton heard from his daughter at Hampstead Academy.
“If it was a Jenn Dawley story-time day, even if it was a snowstorm, there are people who would brave the storm to see her programs,” Vinton said. “You just can’t escape it. She has a following.”
As part of the application and hiring process, Dawley held a story-telling event at Plaistow Public Library for library staff and parents.
“What impressed us the most is how much she liked it,” Vinton said. “I can imagine someone with 10, 15, 20 years experience might be a bit jaded. To us, it seemed she was fresh out of college or graduate school, passionate and enjoying the heck out of it.”
Dawley will make $19 an hour and work 40 hours per week, according to Vinton. Chase was earning $17 an hour when she left the position.
Vinton said they may hire a part-time person to work with teenagers.
Dawley said she will appreciate the help.
“I’m really excited about having somebody come in and focus on that age group,” she said. “We need to try to get the young adults in the community into the library and I’d like to see it as a place they can come.”