Montana Treasure: Jude Smith's Legacy

“I love the library. I do love the library and what it has to offer and I wish more people would partake in it.”

For the past 27 years, Jude Smith has worked in some capacity at the Great Falls Public Library.

But these days, you’re more likely to find her around town, enjoying the local art scene or buying cupcakes for her husband.

This past September, Jude pulled the trigger and officially retired from the only job she says ever really gave her a chance.

“I was a hippie, man. I came from San Francisco, we lived there for a long time… I didn’t have clothing, I had college but I hadn’t been in the working sector for a long time. So I needed to help put food on the table. So once I was there it was good, I’m not sure I would have made it anywhere else.”

For the past 18 years Jude worked as the public relations officer for the library. Before that, her duties varied from the book mobile to the circulation desk. And finding the perfect niche for someone as unique as Jude wasn’t easy.

“I really hope you’ll put this on the air, I owe a debt of gratitude to Jim Heckle. He really worked with me to create a position that not only benefited the library in my opinion, but it also benefited me in terms of allowing me what was in my ability and the best of my talent. I was no good really, I was unhappy and frustrated in other places, and I’m not that good at it.”

Although Jude has mostly fond memories of her time at the library, like any job, it didn’t come without struggles.

“My least favorite thing was probably the politics of the job. You can put that on there I don’t care. It’s the truth. It was my least favorite thing and I’m not cut out for it.”

But it gave Jude the opportunity to form relationships within the community, through new programming, live musical performances and art exhibits in a place many people only associate with a dying medium.

“Even though I grew up here I never really related to this as my home very much, I could hardly wait to get away. But it’s a community for better or for worse and having all the connections of people I’ve met I think that was just the most wonderful thing.”

So sure, you may not see Jude wandering the halls of the library quite as much anymore, which makes sense considering she just spent nearly three decades working in this building. But don’t let that distance fool you. Jude says she’s just busy trying to figure out her new normal.

“So I have a little indoor garden, and I’m reading, doing yoga with friends. I’m thinking about… there’s this drawing class at the square I’m thinking about going to sometimes.”

But still all the while, remembering the place that took a leap of faith, and gave Jude a chance.

“I wrote the director a letter before I left and I said I know I wasn’t your ideal employee, but I hope my strengths helped make up for my deficits.”

Jude Smith… this week’s Montana Treasure.

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