By Wendy Nugent
Editor’s note: Former Times-Sentinel reporter Sam Jack is now the public relations and special services supervisor at the Newton Public Library. He continues to report for The Times-Sentinel in a part-time role.
At a fairly young age, Sam Jack has quite an impressive and diverse resume already.
He started his current job of public relations and special services supervisor at Newton Public Library in October, but he’s been a reporter and is a graduate of Harvard.
Jack, whose hometown is Goddard, attended school in Goddard and then went to college after graduation.
“I went to Harvard, and from there, I went straight to grad school and got an MFA in poetry,” Jack said.
After that, he returned to the Wichita area and worked for the Wichita Grand Opera for about a year, doing fundraising.
“I’ve also been in the choirs and I sing,” he said.
Then, his career path took another direction, working for The Times-Sentinel as a reporter.
“When I worked at the paper, I started attending Emporia State and got a library science degree, applied for this (job at NPL), and here I am,” he said.
Although he still lives in Goddard, he enjoys the commute to Newton.
“The drive is OK because I have audio books,” he said. “You can get them through the library – turns into extra reading time, in a way.”
While at Harvard, Jack majored in English literature.
“I’ve always had an interest in literature and books,” he said. “My mother’s a school librarian in Goddard. My entire family is big readers and I guess that always was the atmosphere. Everybody’s always got a book they’re working on reading. I just really love literature and writing. That’s something I enjoy sharing with people. This job is a great way to do that—not only books, but everything the library offers, which is really not only information, but a community that comes together around the library.”
The latter can include book clubs they have at the library. Jack said that reading a book is a solitary activity. But, that’s not always so when patrons get involved with the library by talking about books they read at the check-out counter or joining a book club.
He thinks his job as a reporter was great at preparing him to do his position at NPL.
“I kind of view them both as public service in that you’re helping connect people with information they need or entertainment they want,” Jack said. “That’s part of what makes democracy work is the availability of free information and knowledge.”
Wearing a Harry Potter shirt he got for Christmas, Jack said that the freshman class at Harvard was the same age as the main characters in Harry Potter and that they grew up with that.
“We were like, ‘This is Hogwarts,’” Jack said. “It’s like you’ve been singled out or chosen in a way. You were the lucky one. Then, you get used to it.”
While there, it was people interested in learning and who were taught by smart people, he said.
He had the opportunity to study with Helen Vendler, an American literary critic and Porter University Professor Emerita at Harvard, and famous poet, Jorie Graham was his adviser.
“I really think there’s been a lot of benefit for me personally to be able to appreciate arts and practice them too, which I think the library can be a good place for education, the kind of education that you can enjoy being with yourself,” he said. “If you’re alone with your thoughts, you can have enjoyable things to think about.”
That’s something he liked about reporting, as well.
“It was hard for me to give that up,” he said. “I liked investigating and holding people accountable in a way,” he said. “I think this job has a lot of variety, too. You’re writing, making videos, helping with reference questions or if they want a book recommendation.”
Jack said he has a background in creative writing workshops and would like to have that at the library.
“I’d love to get any feedback from folks in what kind of workshop they’d be interested in,” he said, adding maybe it could be a poetry writing workshop.
Jack is looking forward to at least one thing in the future at the library.
“I’m really excited about this new library building project,” he said, adding that fundraising will be a part of that.