‘They thought I lived at the li­brary’

Twillingate li­brar­ian re­tires after nearly four decades on the job

The Central Voice - - Front Page - BY KYLE GREENHAM

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 that 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.”

Cher­ished mem­o­ries

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 six 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.”


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 full­time li­brar­ian.

“That next day, who­ever that is, will start their job,” she said. “The new Barb.”


Barb Ham­lyn says her pas­sion for read­ing and shar­ing that pas­sion with younger gen­er­a­tions of the area is what most in­spired her to keep her long-stand­ing role as Twillingate’s li­brar­ian


For over 36 years Barb Ham­lyn worked as li­brar­ian at the Twillingate Pub­lic Li­brary. On Jan. 24 Ham­lyn will of­fi­cially re­tire.

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