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‘They thought I lived at the library’
TWILLINGATE, N.L - After 36 years of service, Barb Hamlyn is leaving behind her role as Twillingate’s librarian.
Hamlyn, now 65, was the familiar face to four generations who walked through the Twillingate Public Library — the halls of books that served Twillingate Island Elementary, J.M. Olds Collegiate, as well as the general public of Twillingate Island.
Now about to leave behind her decades of devoted work to the area, Hamlyn says it was her love of reading and her passion to pass this on that kept her so loyal to the job.
“What kept me here is books and children – the love of reading and trying to instill that in a child,” she said. “Some were only 10-days-old when they started coming to the library, and then I’d see them all the way up until their high school graduation.
“It was no struggle, it was 100 per cent pleasure.”
The library stood as a second home to Hamlyn nearly all her life. Growing up with a father who was an avid reader, her childhood home stood directly across from the town’s first public library. The building now exists as Twillingate’s Women’s Institute.
She worked at the library as a student and took her first position as a librarian from 1971-74.
Hamlyn left at that time to raise her family, and when she returned to the job in 1985 the library had moved to its current location at the J.M. Olds Collegiate high school.
She remained at this role ever since. As well, Hamlyn worked with the adult book club, Grade 4-6 book club, the children’s program, and even spent 20 years working part-time as medical librarian at the Notre Dame Bay Memorial Health Centre.
Hamlyn’s place is so rooted in the community that she recalled a young child’s shocking reaction to seeing her outside of the library.
“They saw me down at the pharmacy and the child shouted, ‘Mom, they let her out!’” Hamlyn said with a laugh. “They thought I lived at the library.”
When looking back on her tour of librarian duty, the cherished memories abound for Hamlyn. The anecdotes range from the introduction of computers to the library and the seven-year-old student who had to teach her how to use them, recommending books to students desperate to get a book report out of the way and met with the reaction, ‘No Miss, that book’s too thick’, and confusing the names of young students with their parents — who Hamlyn had also read to at the same age.
Hamlyn is called Barb by almost all who visit the library, young and old, due to one encounter with a young neighbour who was confused by the title “Mrs. Hamlyn.”
“Ben Anstey, a young boy who lived next door came to the library as a student,” Hamlyn explained. “When I introduced myself as Mrs. Hamlyn, he said, ‘That’s not Mrs. Hamlyn, that’s Barb.’
“So after that I was Barb to everyone.”
Of all her recollections, Hamlyn says it is this contact with the children she will miss most.
“After this generation now, I won’t know the kids anymore. So it’s something severed – that social contact with the children,” she said. “I’ll miss the adults as well, but especially the children. That was my passion, helping the children.”
“They saw me down at the pharmacy and the child shouted, ‘Mom, they let her out!’ They thought I lived at the library.”
Around the same time last year, at age 64, Hamlyn had reached her superior saying she was ready to retire. While she eventually backed away from the decision, she made the same call again this year.
Because of this, Hamlyn says her superior did not bring out the forms to usher in her retirement, expecting Hamlyn could not seriously back away from being librarian.
“She said I should at least wait until spring or I’ll get cabin fever over the winter,” Hamlyn said. “But I figured I need to go at sometime, and what’s another two more months or three more months. I suppose I could stay at it into my eighties if I wanted to.”
So Hamlyn put her foot down and decided this was the time, and on Wednesday, Dec. 19, on her 65th birthday, she put in her last shift at the library.
However, she plans to remain involved with the adult book club and take a position on the Twillingate Public Library board to still keep her vital influence on decisions around the institution.
She is currently on annual leave, and Hamlyn’s position as librarian does not officially end until Jan. 23.
Then on Jan. 24, her shoes will be filled by another full-time librarian.
“That next day, whoever that is, will start their job,” she said. “The new Barb.”
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