Saturday, May 2, 2009

Once a Librarian.....

The countdown continues. My last day at work will be May 15th. This week I went downtown and filed my official retirement papers. A kind man at Human Resources paged through my 6 or 7 forms and photocopies and assured me I had everything filled out and signed correctly (my goodness, there was a lot of paperwork). That was a major hurdle completed. I continue to empty out file cabinets and prepare things for the future unknown librarian who will take my place.

It has been a privilege to stay so long at one small public library. The best thing about small libraries is getting to know the community and being a part of so many lives. All the tiny moments of connection really add up. You are there when a Mom brings in her baby for the first visit, then later on when the child gets their own library card. Probably you will help the child find books for a report, and in the case of some kids, you will hear about their first visit from the tooth fairy, what happened to them on Halloween, or what Grandma gave them for their birthday. One family sticks in my mind because I remember the day the man came in to get a book on buying jewelry. He wanted to propose to his girlfriend, and needed to get a handle on how to buy a diamond ring. This many years later, their family is thriving; one daughter in college, the other finishing high school.

Our library is right next door to a senior center, so we have lots of senior customers. There are so many lively seniors who come to mind; they paint pictures, grow flowers, take trips and bring us treats. They like to stop and chat, and we love passing the time of the day with them. One senior saw me bicycling away from the library in the late afternoon on a hot summer day. My car was in for repairs. She insisted it was too hot for me to do any such thing, so we packed my bike into her car's trunk and she drove me to the gas station. Another senior named Mary always brought us a Whitman's sampler at Christmastime. Mary had a real penchant for Regency romance paperbacks. When she became homebound, occasionally we were able to deliver books to her door. She was developing Alzheimer's and eventually moved to California, where she could live near her daughters in a special facility. Still she wrote me letters and let me know she had not forgotten me. She even offered to get a cot brought into her room should I want to visit....

I also remember a senior we'll call Mr. McPherson. He was retired but often came to the library in a suit and tie to read the newspaper. It was a delight to say hello to him. The typical exchange went something like this: "How are you today, Mr. McPherson?" His answer: "I'm fine. I had breakfast, and my wife tells me we'll be having lunch and dinner, too!" He and other Great Depression era seniors have shared memories of those times with me. Years ago I facilitated two programs on reminiscence writing at Senior Services. One exercise suggested participants write about a favorite toy. More than one person said they did not have any actual toys, just sticks and cans and pebbles that they made into toys. They remembered wearing clothes until they turned to rags, and many other forms of making do.

This past week, when I told one of the customers (a busy Mom) I was retiring, she said "Oh, no, you can't stop being a librarian. Once a librarian, always a librarian. I may not be practicing law, but I'm still a lawyer!" I am curious to find out what being a librarian means when you don't have a public library anymore. I know I'll have time to read and review more books. And more time to blog! I must admit I'm weary of being a manager and carrying the burden of responsibility for most everything that goes on in our building. I will miss the community and staff camaraderie. But I'll gain the chance to see what it looks like from the other side of the service desk. I'll be coming in through the front door as a customer. What a luxury, to be able to come and go freely to a public library, and not have to run the place! Just thirteen days to go.....

2 comments:

Don Wentworth said...

KAO:

What a lovely post - you reminded me of my many years as a bookmobile librarian and the personal feel that really made it all worthwhile. Though I now work in a big city library, I've learned you can still manage to keep that personal touch when dealing with one person at a time. I even work with a librarian who remembers coming into the library while she was still in high school and that I was the only friendly face around. It is really great to now have her as a colleague and friend.

Congrats on your retirement. Will you still be doing this blog or will you start another?

"Once a librarian, always a librarian ..."

Don Wentworth Lilliput Review / Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

LoneStarLibrarian said...

Don - For now, I will continue this blog and see how it goes. I am tired of the moniker but people are used to it. I am not sure if you will see this comment, so I will also copy it to you Lilliput blog. Cheers - Keddy