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Mary Ferris, 71

By Melody Burris

Children’s Services Librarian Mary Ferris has been on
the job for 48 years. She talks about longevity, loving your work and the power of reading

Q: What do you most enjoy about your work as Wood Library’s Children’s Services librarian?

“I started working at Wood Library on February 1, 1974, so I’ve been here 48 years. It was my first job out of grad school, and I guess it was a good fit. I feel so fortunate to have found something that I truly love doing, and look forward to going to work every day. In part because a public library is never the same two days in a row — whoever comes in the door defines what might happen that day.

“As the first children’s librarian at Wood, I was lucky enough to be able to create and define what the job would be. All five directors I’ve worked with have been so supportive of anything I wanted to try, and that’s allowed me to personally challenge myself to explore all kinds of ways to engage with children and families.”

Q: Not many people stick with a job or career for the long haul. How does it feel to be serving the children of the children you once taught?

“One amazing outcome of the pandemic and having to close the library was it forced us to find new ways to connect with library patrons. We all had to translate our programs to a virtual platform, so I learned how to use my phone to record, edit, and post my story programs on social media.

“Imagine my surprise and joy to get feedback from storytime ‘graduates’ near and far who were tuning into the library’s YouTube channel to watch Mrs. Ferris with their children! When you work with children, you never know what sort of impact you may have had. So, to hear from these parents how viewing these videos brought back such wonderful memories for them is something truly special for me.”

Q: Why do you believe reading is such an important part of childhood learning and development?

“Reading is an essential skill for anything else you do in life. Think about it — what doesn’t involve reading? And being able to read gives a child the independence to explore their world. So that’s why it’s important to help each and every child find their own way to make those squiggles on a piece of paper — or computer screen — become images and ideas and have meaning.”

 Q: What can parents do to build better reading habits for themselves and their families?

“Lead by example. If a child sees a parent reading, they’re more likely to do it too. Show that reading is something that is enjoyable by reading to your child and talking about what you read. My father worked at the local newspaper and brought us each our own copy to read — ownership is important. Have books in your home — either ones that you own or ones that you borrow from the library.”

Q: When you’re not at work, what kind of books do you like to read and who are some of your favorite authors? 

“Would it surprise you if I said I mostly read children’s fiction books? They have the best stories without any unnecessary drama. I devoured the Harry Potter series when it came out and still like to reread them. My favorite authors are Kate DiCamillo, Sharon Creech, Angie Sage, Katherine Applegate, Gordon Korman, and Andrew Clements. And if I have to ‘grow up’ my reading selection, give me a Janet Evanovich novel for a fast, fun read!”

Q: Any plans to retire, and if so, what would you like to have more time to do? 

“I’ve warned the library director that it’s coming sooner than later, but I don’t have a date set in my mind. I still love what I’m doing and I want to enjoy the wonderful new additions to our children’s area. I think it’s really important to have plans for what you want to do before you actually retire, and I’m still working on that. I know my husband is itching to do some traveling and I’m looking forward to that. I also need to find a way to channel my crafting creativity, not for profit, but just for personal satisfaction.

Q: What’s one core value that continues to shape your life and career?

“Find joy in what you’re doing.”

Q: What’s one thing that gives you hope about the children of today as they become the leaders of tomorrow? 

“Remember to always be kind.”