Farewell to Miss Joanne: Lane Library assistant helped generations of children enjoy reading

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Lane Library assistant helped generations of children enjoy reading

By Lisa Tetrault-Zhe

Hampton Union, Tuesday, August 23, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
Joanne Mulready, retiring library assistant in the Lane Library children's room, reads a book to 2-year-old Evie of Hampton

HAMPTON -- Many children will notice a familiar face missing from Lane Library this fall. After 25 years greeting children and helping them find books to love, children's library assistant Joanne Mulready will retire on Sept. 1.

"The best part of my job is the kids," Mulready said. "I love getting to know them, helping them pick out books I know they'll enjoy."

Mulready smiled as she recalled memories of the past quarter of a century.

"I have a little girl who comes in now, I'd say she's about 4," Mulready said. "She first came up to the desk about five weeks ago. I started talking with her and she responded. Later, her mother told me she had never spoken to a stranger before. That just gave me goosebumps to hear that."

Mulready speaks with pride and genuine affection for all the children who pass through, which is noteworthy in that she didn't intend to become a librarian.

"I studied to be a nurse, went to school for three years to earn my nursing degree and worked at North Shore Babies (and Children's) Hospital in Salem, Mass.," Mulready explained. "I also worked as a nurse at Portsmouth Regional Hospital."

But a family situation — a fire — forced Mulready to take time off from work. She started out volunteering at Sacred Heart School, where her three children, Christine, Rick and Patty, attended. An opening came up in the school library, she took it and stayed for five years before taking the position at Lane Library.

While the children's department is geared for students attending up to sixth grade or so, Mulready said she works a little better with the younger children. Part of her job includes running the toddler story time for kids ages 15 months to 3 years.

While many of the toddlers do run around on the stage while she's reading, by the end of the six-week session, most of them will approach her and sit with her. Some even ask her to read certain books, including her favorites, "Mo's Stinky Sweater," by David Bedford and "Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge" by Mem Fox.

"The library just has so much to offer," Mulready said. "The little ones like to play with the cubes with beads on them; there are board books; the kids love the puzzles. Sometimes the moms will take a book off the parent shelf while their kids are browsing. I find it incredible the amount of stuff we have here."

One challenge that stands out in her mind was when the library was flooded six years ago.

"There was an inch of water on the floor," she said. "We had to come in and go through the books. I think about 500 books were ruined."

But many patrons came through with generous donations in addition to the insurance money which offset the cost of book replacements, she said.

Another role she fills is selecting books for all the children who sign up for the summer reading program. This year, that was more than 300 children. She painstakingly picks books she thinks each child will enjoy. For those she doesn't know as well, she either asks the parent or looks up their history on their library card to determine what they like to read.

She's had an impact on the lives of many children.

"A dad came in a few weeks ago. Usually, the boys, who are twins, come in with their mom. He said to me, 'Joanne, I heard you were retiring. You are such a part of the boys' lives, when they come to the library, they expect to see you. When their mom says she's bringing them to the library, they say they want to see Miss Joanne."

Some of her patrons have come full circle — she has a handful who used to come in as children who are now parents bringing in their own children.

The decision to retire wasn't an easy one, but now she's certain she's made the right choice.

"I have mixed emotions, but I do feel good about it," Mulready said. "I thought about it for a year, then I'd see the kids and put it off. But I've decided it's time, life is too short, there are some things I want to do."

Such things include spending more time with her grandchildren, traveling to California to visit her son, and fixing up her house. She also enjoys counter-cross stitching and reading, of course.

A retirement party will be held in her honor on Tuesday, Sept. 6 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the library in the Lane Room.

What: Retirement party for library assistant "Miss Joanne" Mulready
Where: Lane Memorial Library, 2 Academy Ave.
When: 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6 in the Lane Room
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