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Claudia Hairston settles in at PA Library, which is still serving community despite shutdown

The doors to the Port Arthur Public Library may be temporarily closed but the newest hire, Claudia Hairston, and fellow employees are remaining busy making sure the facility continues its service to the community.

The rise in COVID-19 cases is what led to the temporary closure of the facility, 4615 Ninth Ave., on July 13.

But all is well inside as Hairston, who came on board as assistant director in May, took the reins from the retiring Jenniffer Hudson Connors.

And even though the doors are closed, work continues. The Summer Reading Program is in full force as requests for books are made and curbside pickup allows for the books to be brought home. As each child progresses week to week marking milestones, he or she receives “brag tags” — plastic tags that can be worn as a necklace or on their bookbag zipper.

Claudia Hairston is the new assistant director of the Port Arthur Public Library. (Mary Meaux/The News)

“We try to continue to post things on our Facebook page to keep our community engaged,” Hairston said of how staff is working toward goals given the novel coronavirus and limitations. “It has proven a challenge but also pushed us to think outside the box, so to speak, and get out of our comfort zone to provide services our patrons appreciate.”

Hairston has been in Southeast Texas for approximately 12 years and grew up a military child. She has cross-crossed the U.S., living in various locations as well as spending nine years in Germany.

“I have to say I was fortunate to experience various cultures. It added to me being more well rounded,” she said, adding some military brats do not like the constant moving just as they are getting used to a location.

She was the opposite.

“I developed an appreciation to experience different cultures and locations,” Hairston said. “It is very interesting to see things in movies and say ‘I’ve been there and saw that.’ It was a very unique upbringing.”

Goals

What would be considered normal library goals changed a bit with the pandemic. One goal is to open the doors as well as continue to get new books and add to the collection.

“And with school right around the corner, we try to think of what we can do to support our Port Arthur Independent School District,” Hairston said. “There are still great things happening with the ultimate goal to reopen the doors.”

Carolyn Thibodeaux, children’s librarian, called Hairston amazing.

“She comes with a dynamic personality that’s approachable, not only in the public’s perspective but staff as well,” Thibodaux said. “From a children’s librarian point of view, I love her wisdom and I value the marketing skills she has for the library.”

Background

Hairston has a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Texas at El Paso and graduated summa cum laude from Texas Women’s University with a Master of Library Science degree.

Prior to that she worked as the branch manager of the R.C. Miller Memorial Library in Beaumont, where she managed more than 160,000 titles a year.