Beloved Almonte librarian Monica Blackburn reflects on her most memorable moments at the end of a 35-year career

A retirement party will be held for Monica Blackburn on Dec. 6. – Photo via Mississippi Mills

The Mississippi Mills Public Library is celebrating the bittersweet retirement of longtime librarian Monica Blackburn. While the library is of course disappointed to be losing such a great member of their team, they are thrilled to send Blackburn off into a blissful retirement after a 35 year career at the library.

Lanarkist had the pleasure of interviewing Blackburn about her career at the library and her five more memorable moments with the Almonte branch. She started working at the library as a teenager, from Grade 8 to Grade 13, and would complete a variety of helpful tasks around the library, getting familiar with the place that would soon become her home away from home.

“For many years I was responsible for Interlibrary loan and children’s programming,” Blackburn said. “I am now Deputy CEO responsible for Interlibrary loan, purchasing of books/DVDs, and managing circulation staff.”

When reflecting on her career, Blackburn emphasized the importance of the people around her.

“Both the staff and our patrons have been a big part of my life. We laugh together, share frustrations, solve problems, brainstorm and learn together.”

Retirement may seem daunting to some, but Blackburn is optimistically awaiting the next phase of life. “I’m looking forward to being able to spread my personal to-do list over seven days instead of two,” she shared. “My husband is retired, so it will be great to spend more time together, travelling, gardening, going on day trips, cooking and spending time with friends and family.”

Here are Blackburn’s five most memorable library events that she will carry with her into the next chapter.

1. Firstly, she detailed how “A young father brought his children to storytime for many years. He approached me to see if I was interested in writing a children’s book that he could illustrate. I said yes, and we published three books together!”

2. Secondly, Blackburn remembers stepping in for a week one summer during the literacy tutoring program when one of the tutors was ill. She says, “I remember the thrill when the young girl I was tutoring had her ‘eureka’ moment when she realized that C A T spelled cat!”

3. Monica vividly remembers the years of 1995 -1996 because the library underwent a huge renovation. She elaborates, “We ran the library for almost a year with a tiny collection in a small, dark and damp location. It was wonderful to open up in our new building to everyone’s delight!”

4. The librarian then shared, ”Some years ago a new Mom stopped by the library to introduce me to her new infant on the way home from the hospital. I will never forget meeting him!”

5. Finally, Blackburn expanded on working at the library during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Being locked down during COVID was the worst experience…I will never forget bringing hundreds of reserved books to our patrons waiting outside, complete with mask and gloves on one of the hottest days of the summer!”

The library is inviting folks to join them in celebrating Monica’s hard work and dedication over the years. The party will take place at the Almonte Branch location at 155 High St. in Almonte from 1 to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 6. Refreshments will be served. If you’ve ever had pleasant interactions with Monica over her many years with the library, you’re invited to stop by and wish her a fond farewell.

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