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Everyday people: Hill loves quiet life in Zumbrota

James Hill is the director of the Zumbrota public library. He enjoys the small-town feel and access to the outdoors, he said.

ZUMBROTA -- James Hill's life got a lot quieter about five years ago.

The Illinois native and his wife moved from Chicago, where more than 2.7 million inhabitants crowd the urban streets, to Zumbrota, a rural area with a population of just more than 3,200.

"We were looking for some place quieter," Hill said. "We both really like the outdoors."

And as director of the Zumbrota public library, even his workplace stays relatively hushed.

Working in a library was not always a goal for Hill.

"It was something I fell into," he said. "I worked in libraries in college and moved up as I went."

Hill's duties in Zumbrota encompass much more than books.

He handles budgeting and administration for the library, assists patrons, manages the website and even fixes computers and help visitors with technology questions.

"It's interesting being a library director in a small town, because you do a little bit of everything," he said.

Because of his position, a lot of people assume Hill is a huge reader, he said.

"I'm not really, actually," he said. But that doesn't mean he's not up to speed.

"I do a lot of reading about reading so I'm able to assist people."

Working at a public library in a town like Zumbrota allows him to interact with people on a regular basis and get to know them, Hill said.

"I enjoy helping people," he said.

He is involved in the community outside of work as well, doing volunteer work as part of the Rotary Club and enjoying all the area has to offer.

Hill has lived in other cities throughout the country, but said he sees himself staying in the state.

"When we came to Minnesota we really felt comfortable," he said of him and his wife. "It felt like we were home."

He said Zumbrota is close enough to Rochester and the Twin Cities to watch sports, shop or attend events while still offering a rural feel.

"I liked what a big city offered, but didn't like living in the city," he said. And after dealing with hours-long commutes in Chicago, Hill now lives within walking distance of his workplace.

The Zumbrota area, as well as the whole state, also offers plenty of opportunities for the outdoor activities Hill and his wife enjoy -- hiking, camping, backpacking and more.

"For a town this size, there's lots going on, especially in the arts community," Hill added. "To have that is kind of unique."

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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