25 years among the library stacks

For Nancy Brewer, this is what dedication to your job looks like: donning a silly costume and letting an elementary school student feed you a freeze-dried cricket not once, but four times.

"It was nasty," said Brewer, 62, of the sour cream and chive flavored crickets she found at Nature's Art Village, which she said tasted like dried leaves. But the librarian's philosophy, as she described it last week, is "anything to make reading fun."

She visited each elementary school in Ledyard to allow kids with the most recorded reading minutes to feed her an insect. That particular stunt was four or five years ago, said Brewer, but kids still bring it up today-"You were the one who ate that bug!"

She's not only the one who ate that bug, but the one who let kids spray-paint her hair and paint her clothes while in an all-white outfit and showed up at their school as "Professor Wienerschnitzel," with crazy white hair and mustache and a repertoire of goofy science experiments.

Brewer has been the children's librarian for Ledyard Public Libraries for 25 years, and she's not only watched the children from her storytime hours grow up, but has begun reading to the children of those children.

And she's blended into the Bill Library children's room so expertly you might not notice her there at first. Dressed in colors as bright as the giant stuffed animals that lounge on the shelves and hide behind turrets of books and magazines at the desk her coworkers call "the fortress," Brewer seems as much a fixture of the room as her beloved stuffed bear mascot, Bosco.

But if last Thursday is any indication, she's rarely behind a desk.

"I can't believe how big your baby's getting!" exclaimed Brewer, greeting library patron Alyssa McIntyre and her three children one afternoon last week.

She went on to help Dylan McIntyre, age 7, get his "book bucks" for summer reading and sort through buckets of toys available for purchase with the library currency.

Dylan gravitated toward a set of vampire teeth - one book buck a piece and an appropriate choice, noted Brewer, for a kid with missing front teeth and a T-Rex shirt.

"Everybody loves Nancy," said Alyssa McIntyre, who has been attending storytimes at Bill Library since her 11-year-old was 2. "She's great at helping kids get interested in different (book) series."

Brewer said she often orders books with a certain kid in mind, or acts on requests from the children. But she also likes to read books herself before she recommends them, part of the reason they pile up on her desk.

"What a job!" said Brewer, smiling and rejoicing in the fact that she gets paid to read children's books.

After Dylan is set with his new teeth, there are puzzles to put away-not the most fun part of the job, noted Brewer-and more patrons to greet.

As the kids browse the books, they talk-though not too loudly. Brewer said she often finds herself correcting parents who come to the library and shush their children.

In the kids' room, they are allowed to use their normal voice. Libraries, said Brewer, should be a "welcoming place"-one that kids aren't afraid to visit.

She's particularly proud of a message that has been tacked to her bulletin board since October 1989-a thank you note on green scrap paper that a boy gave her after she helped with a school report.

"Thank you for helping me," it says. "I guess libraries aren't so bad after all."



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