A Cup of Joe with Lib. Director Jim McShane

Jim McShane sits down to talk about his musical skills as well as exciting new plans for the Kent Memorial Library renovation, now scheduled to reopen in March.

Jim McShane plays the shakuhachi.

His use of that instrument, a Japanese flute, is in some ways a natural progression from his day job, library director at .

Being surrounded by books all day long gives him the itch to not only read the pages, but immerse himself in the topics he finds interesting. 

It’s the natural consequence of being surrounded by inspiration.

“As a librarian you become interested in almost everything,” McShane said. “There are so many different things coming across my desk, it becomes a challenge [of] how to make that connection more than just through a book.” 

An inquisitive musician, McShane has played the violin, clarinet, piano and guitar and now focuses his attention on the Japanese flute, or the shakuhachi. 

A man of many languages, he speaks Japanese, Russian, German, French, Danish and Tibetan.

“I have an interest in words, so consequently I started with Latin and Greek,” he said. “It’s amazing how you can develop your vocabulary. The more you learn about language, [the more] you learn about culture.”

Those interests in language and culture led him to spend three weeks in Japan in 2011. But McShane doesn’t have to go that far all the time. He takes the opportunity to camp and hike when he can. And he takes photographs along the way.

“In search of the wild photograph,” he explained of his hobby.

McShane grew up on Long Island and went to the State University of New York, Binghamton for his undergraduate career. He then attended Indiana University for his master's degree in library science.

He worked in libraries in Kansas, then moved back east to Massachusetts as a library director. He arrived in Suffield in 2004 to head up the library.

McShane has spent many years trying to make positive changes to the library. He saw several new library proposals fail due to controversy over the architectural value of the building and the cost to build a new one.

“It’s been interesting,” McShane said. “This library is the most ‘studied’ in the state... But it’s been eight years now, so it’s time to do something. I’ve been fantasizing about all the changes we could make, like taking out the alcoves, for a long time.” 

McShane pointed out it’s a particularly relevant time to be revamping the library as it turns 40 years old in 2012.

Town funding and grant awards have paid for serious repairs to the leaky roof. Also, the floors and carpet are being replaced and new bookshelves and some furniture are in the plans as well. It’s musical chairs for the layout, since many sections will shift to new locations in the building. The children’s section will take over the back of the library near the large window facing the interesction of Main Street and Mountain Road. A coffee and reading lounge will displace the old checkout counters.

In the meantime, the library is operating out of the conference room behind Town Hall.

“With any luck, and it’s going to take luck, we will be finished with the repairs and be back in March,” McShane explained. “We are all looking forward to getting oue home back. The town has been great to work with.”

McShane lives in Enfield. His significant other, Kathy, is a library director in Branford.


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