Summer-Fall 2011 Telluride Magazine

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Page 56

telluride faces

Stacking Up Life Skills By Martinique Davis


f there were one location that could be considered the heart of Telluride, it’s the Wilkinson Public Library, the hub of the Telluride community and the nucleus of the dynamic circuitry that is local life here. And if there were one person that could be considered the face of this library, it would be Oak Smith. When Smith accepted a part-time job with the Wilkinson Public Library in 1995, he imagined his tenure there to last no more than a year. Yet sixteen years later, this oak smith self-described “born-again born-again librarian librarian” is one of the inmaterials manager stitution’s most familiar wilkinson public library faces. With a storyteller’s photo by brett schreckengost resonant voice and expressive features to match, Smith is an ebullient ambassador to Telluride’s civic heart. As head of Materials Management, Smith is the man standing at the forefront of the library’s perpetual information interchange. But it would be remiss to pigeonhole Smith strictly as a librarian. Chat Mesa, and in 1985 began construction on what Smith calls his “payday house.” As he dewith him for spell (in hushed voice, scribes, “Every payday, I’d buy more lumber, tow it out there and build a little bit more.” All of course, if at his place of work) and told, it took Smith a full decade to complete the house, enlisting very little outside help. By meet a man whose interests are as 1995, after nearly 20 years living on the Navajo Reservation, the Smiths moved full-time to varied as the titles that cross his desk their just-completed house in Norwood and entered into the next chapter of their lives. each day. If he were to select a book Smith admits he took the job at the library strictly because, immediately following the about each of his fortes, he’d end up move here, he needed part-time work while he changed the focus of his knife business to with a stack a few feet high. Among architectural ironworking. “I never came out of college thinking I was going to become a the specialties represented would be librarian,” says Smith, who graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in animal volumes about city planning, smallscience; but he found he enjoyed it. The aspect of the job that resonates with him most, in town politics, dog breeding, ironhis words, is “working alongside incredible people who are doing incredible work.” During working, home building and custom his tenure, Smith has seen the library transform from a small, highly efficient town library knife craftsmanship. to an innovative, five-star-rated institution that has become one of the community’s most Smith and his wife, Carrie, discovtreasured assets. ered San Miguel County in the early Moving off the reservation also enabled Smith to explore another avenue: public service. 1980s when Carrie was working as a “I’ve always had this philosophy that one should participate in their government—and I government teacher on the Navajo couldn’t do that on the reservation,” he says. [Since he was not a member of the tribe, he Indian Reservation in Kayenta, Aricouldn’t hold public office, nor could he vote in local elections.] “Now that I was back livzona. On the reservation, Smith had ing somewhere that I could be involved, I wanted to be involved,” he says of his decision built a successful ironworking busiin 1995 to apply for a seat on the San Miguel County Planning Commission. Smith was ness, specializing in custom knives. appointed to the position, which he held for a total of 11 years. He served as chair for five In 1982, they purchased property of those years. outside of Norwood on Wright’s



summer/fall 2011

“I never came out of college thinking I was going to become a librarian.”