SEASIDE — Micah Newsome, his girlfriend and two Boston terriers drove from Augusta, Georgia, to Seaside in the midst of the pandemic last summer.
“It was a joint decision. She has family in Washington County and we both like the area,” said Newsome, Seaside’s assistant library director. “We both applied for jobs before moving, and planned to move if either of us was offered a position. We were fortunate enough to both be offered positions. We’re living with family in Washington County right now, so that was our deciding factor.”
Newsome’s hometown of Harlem, Georgia, is famed as the birthplace of Oliver Hardy, the more rotund half of the classic comedians Laurel and Hardy.
His parents were teachers and Newsome can’t remember a time before he went to the library.
He nursed his passions for science fiction and survival tales before he discovered J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” in high school. “I tend to read fantasy to this day,” he said.
Inspired by his sister and brother, who both worked in libraries, Newsome studied library science at Valdosta State University. Since graduation, he’s worked as a young adult librarian and later as head of reference in charge of adult services for the Middle Georgia Regional Library System.
After Newsome and his girlfriend, also a librarian, both received job offers, the couple settled in Washington County to live with family.
He started work in Seaside seven months ago with COVID-19 precautions in place, limited library hours and, in November, additional closures.
The pandemic has altered the way people use libraries.
“E-books have gone from something barely on anyone’s mind to something really common,” he said.
E-books bring more readers, he added, but can create financial pressures for public libraries. It costs libraries more to subscribe to an e-book service than if they purchased the physical book. Libraries must renew the service or pay additional fees depending on the times the e-book is requested.
“It can circulate 52 times, and you can have it for two years,” he said. “If you cross either of those thresholds in two years, you lose access and you have to buy it again.”
Newspapers have gone off a little bit, but the biggest change he’s seen in is magazines, which he said are not being sent out as much. “Books are continuing to circulate,” he said, “but it isn’t growing like it used to.”
In Georgia, Newsome said, everyone has access to the joint collection for the entire state. “If you have a library card in Georgia you can use it in any library,” he said. “For smaller libraries to be able to have that is really nice.”
Seaside’s collection, which he says is really good for the size of the library, will benefit from new interlibrary services with Astoria and Warrenton. “Seaside, Warrenton and Astoria are basically doing what Georgia is doing, just on a smaller scale,” he said.
Newsome said he is navigating Oregon’s roads and mountains with snow tires and careful driving. “I actually prefer cold weather to hot weather,” he said. “In Georgia, summer starts now. It goes into the early 90s in May and doesn’t stop until the end of September.”
He enjoys brewing beer, although he has yet to cultivate a taste for most India pale ales. “My favorite is Belgian abbey ales,” he said. “I love the malty character, depth of flavor and complexity.”
For his reading enjoyment, he favors science fiction and cookbooks, but explores a variety of genres — mysteries, literary fiction and bestsellers — to help guide readers.
He’s looking forward to meeting patrons and residents, many of whom he has met only remotely or masked.
“With everything being virtual at the moment it’s really hard to figure out what can we add that only we can provide that’s really adding that ‘library touch,‘” he said.
Newsome hopes to reopen community spaces in the library and find things that are of local interest, including makerspace opportunities that focus on both high- and low-tech projects.
“I really want to get in touch with people in the community and spend some time talking and find out what people are looking for. There’s a really thriving set of programming going on here,” Newsome said. “I’d like to find out what do people really want back most and what new things they would like to see.
“It’s a beautiful building and great collection and it’s well utilized,” he added. “I’m really impressed with the community and the support for the library. It’s an amazing library for a city of this size. I’m really looking forward to getting to the other side of some of these pandemic restrictions.”