By Kim Siebert MacPhail
Although parting is sweet sorrow, those assembled to say farewell to retiring Children’s Librarian Sharon Lawrence McDonald left sadness for another day. The gathering to wish McDonald well—and to thank her for nearly forty years of gentle kindness to generations of Bedford children—was marked by heartfelt tributes, state proclamations, letters of commendation, collegial accolades, expressions of gratitude and not one but two turtle cakes, in honor of McDonald’s well-known, life-long affection for the creatures.
“When I was young, I was very quiet and shy,” McDonald explained as the festivities were beginning. “When I went to college, I realized I would have a lot more fun in life if I actually talked to people and so I came out of my shell, even changed my name for a while to Laurie [for Lawrence, McDonald’s maiden name.] Since the early days of working at the Bedford Library in the 70’s, a turtle drawing [has sort of been my trademark.]”
To begin the ceremonial part of McDonald’s retirement party, Library Director Richard Callaghan spoke, saying that “Sharon is the best Children’s Librarian I have ever had the honor to work with.”
Following Callaghan, Peter Ricci and Caroline Fedele of BEST PTO presented McDonald with a plaque and an armful of books with bookplate dedications in her honor, chosen especially for McDonald, to be placed in the Davis and Lane school libraries hereafter.
Newly-elected State Representative and Bedford resident Ken Gordon then gave McDonald a proclamation from the Massachusetts House, acknowledging her service to the town and its residents.
“Sharon is one of the people that make Bedford Bedford,” Gordon said. “She not only gave our children the gift of story hour, she gave us, as parents, the gift of meeting each other and beginning to develop a supportive network from which we all gained so much.”
Selectmen Chair Cathy Cordes addressed McDonald and read a letter from the Town’s governing board:
“We are writing to honor your 40 years of service to the children of Bedford. You have introduced the love of the library and the love of books to generations of our children and along the way, you have helped us to be better parents and grandparents.
“You have done all this with puppets and bears and turtles and mice and great fun. Children have become parents and brought their children to you. Grandparents have cherished the time spent in the Children’s Library room—a warm and welcoming space for everyone. You have shared books, stories, songs and your love with generations of our children and grandchildren and we honor and thank you for your gifts and your skill.”
Beverley Matthews, President of the Friends of the Library, made McDonald a life-long member of the organization and said that the puppet theater that McDonald’s husband Tom had made would now be hers to keep. The Friends will provide a replacement theater for the Library.
The Bedford Family Connection then gave McDonald a book with letters and pictures, saying “A love of the library starts when [children] are teeny-tiny.”
Former Bedford Library Director Rob Maier, now Director of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, thanked McDonald for “everything she has done for this wonderful town.”
Asked to add her comments, a second former Bedford Library Director, Meredith McCulloch, threw her hands in the air and exclaimed, “It’s just wonderful!”
A tradition has developed over the years that McDonald would compose and perform a song for departing library staff members. The occasion of McDonald’s own retirement was no different—although Library Trustee Abby Hafer added some verses of her own at the end.
McDonald tuned up her guitar and began to sing “The Retirement Song” to the tune of “Down by the Riverside”:
“I’m gonna miss every one of you
Down at the Library
The Public Library
Down at the Bedford Free
I have really loved working here
At the Bedford Library
All these forty years (Oh, right 39 ½.I’m rounding up.)
Summer programs, magic shows.
How many puppets no one knows.
Fairy houses, story times
Singing songs, reciting rhymes (1,2,3 baby caught a flea…)
Bedford Flag and teddy bears’ house,
Do you recall we had a mouse?
Chinese New Year is my favorite holiday.
(When people ask “Do you have any children?” I say “Yes! All the children in town are my children.”)
Well, I don’t want to say goodbye…
Down at the Library,
The Public Library…
Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss,
Rainbow fairies, Mother Goose
Dancing with a parachute,
Don’t you think the turtle’s cute?
No more card catalogue—that’s sad
But in the end, it wasn’t bad
Get the guitar out and let’s all sing another song:
We’re gonna sit down, turn around, read a book together
Gonna sit down turn around, read a book today.
One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four…. to go….
Added verses from Trustee Hafer:
We hate to see our Sharon go,
We don’t know how we’ll stand the blow
And how we’ll find books, I just don’t know!
She ain’t gonna work here any more
‘Cause she has been here almost four-
Ty years and that’s nearly two score.
And while we wish for a hundred more,
We know she’s still got lots in store
And has a new future to explore.