One for the record books: Lorena Smith retiring after 40 years with the library

Drew Butler
Public Services Librarian Lorena Smith stands by her desk at the Ardmore Public Library. She will be retiring this Friday after 40 years of service.
Smith stands by a mural near the children's library. Though she has held many positions throughout her career, she spent 30 years as a children's librarian.
Smith stands by a teepee display at the old library building during the early days of her career.  The building was torn down once the library moved into its present location in November of 1999.
Smith working with kids during her time as Children's Librarian.
Smith organizes a box of books.

By the end of the week, one familiar face will be missing at the Ardmore Public Library. Public Services Librarian Lorena Smith will be retiring on Friday after 40 years on the job. During her time on the job she has witnessed the transition to computers, moved into a new building and held multiple positions.

Smith said she started out as an assistant and has held seven different titles over the years. She is perhaps best known as the children’s librarian, a role she held for 30 years.

“I started at the children’s library in 1989, and I moved from there in 2009,” Smith said. “The first time I was in children’s, I just shelved books, helped patrons and did the story hour. Later when I became children’s librarian, I was responsible for all of the programming, and I did all of the organizing and planning for any of the activities we had going on.”

One of her favorite memories of this position is when the library was running a program about insects in the early 2000s.

“I went to Oklahoma City and bought a rose hair tarantula — Rosie we called her,” Smith said. “That spider would run up and down your arm and the kids loved it. We also had an emperor scorpion that was about five inches long, and I had a millipede that I wore around my arm like a bracelet. I also had a hissing cockroach that would hiss every time you touched it. The kids thought that was so cool.”

Her time as children’s librarian spanned a time when there were many changes taking place within the institution. The 1990s in particular was an era of change.

“When I first started we weren’t automated at all, and we checked out books with the old cards you stick down into a pocket,” Smith said. “In 1994 we automated and started doing things by computer. Then right after that — in 1996 I believe — we started planning for the new library. We moved into this building in November of 1999.”

In her current role as public services librarian, some of her duties include collection development and ordering books. She said library patrons play a major role in deciding which books will be on the shelves.

“We have what you might call a patron driven collection,” she said. “We like to get the things people are asking for and the things that are popular. So when someone puts in a request, we try to get what they want if at all possible. We also read journals and other sources to get ideas for books to bring in.”

She pointed out that librarians stay much busier than many people would guess.

“It’s definitely not as dull as you might think it would be,” she said. “There’s always lots of challenges and lots of things you need to learn and do.”

Smith said the people are what she will miss the most after she retires.

“I’ve been here so long, I enjoy doing most of the jobs around the library,” she said. “I love working with people and with the patrons that we see everyday.”

It’s these people who have made her time with the library truly special.

“It’s been a very satisfying career, and working with the children for so many years was awesome,” Smith said. “When I’m out around town, adults come up to me from time to time to tell me they remember me from when they were kids at the library. Even my grandkids’ friends have told me that they remember me from story hour. It’s really neat to talk to those people and know you’ve made a positive impact on their life.”