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Jenniffer Hudson Connors retiring from PA Public Library; meet the new assistant director

When Jenniffer Hudson Connors came on board as the assistant director of the Port Arthur Public Library, there was a closed sign on the door in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

The former library archive manager with the Starks Foundation in Orange, Connors was recruited by library director Steven Williams to help reopen the Port Arthur building.

Eighteen months later, the library is sporting the closed sign once again, this time due to COVID-19 restrictions as Connors bids a final adieu and heads into retirement.

She looks fondly on her time at the Port Arthur library and of seeing it reopen to a grateful patronage.

“It is bigger and better than ever,” Connors said. “We introduced some fun programs like Book-a-Librarian and re-landscaped the courtyard with the help of an Eagle Scout who did this as a project.”

Along came Throwback Thursday board game night and a completely revised design for the children’s section. There are meeting rooms where English as a Second Language and citizenship classes are taught as well as community meetings held.

The library’s fresh new look along with all of its attributes is still there, waiting.

These past few weeks Connors has been training her replacement, Claudia Hairston, former branch manager of Beaumont’s R.C. Miller Library.

“I think Claudia is a great fit for our team at this time,” Connors said. “She has experience with running the library and will be great in partnering with the community to keep the programs moving forward with a focus on customer service.”

Hairston called the library an extension of the community, saying when the opportunity to come to Port Arthur was made, she had to jump at it — and she is ready for her new role.

“The first step, of course, is to get the doors back open and ensuring the patrons and staff are safe,” Hairston said, adding continuing programming while incorporating more activities to engage families is also a goal.

“I’m looking to doing great things here,” she said.

Williams said he would miss Connors and looks forward to working with Hairston.

“(Connors’) time here was critical when the community needed it,” Williams said. “And what I am really going to miss about Jenniffer is having a professional of that level she is at and knowing when I told her to do something, she would do it above expectations. And even though I managed her, I learned so much from her. I do believe she made me a better director.”

Hairston, he said, is the perfect replacement for Connors and he looks forward to the future of the library.