You can inherit many things from your parents – hair color, shoe size, height – but Marcia Lance, a long-time integral part of the staff of Charles Town Library, has made it her business to pass on something to two generations of her library family, a love of reading.
For nearly 35 years, Marcia has shared that love with the thousands of children and adults as they entered the library at 200 E. Washington Street, where she helped them discover a world that lived between the covers of countless books.
“I’ve met some lovely, lovely people while I’ve worked here,” she said. “I’d say 99.9 percent of the people have been wonderful.”
On July 30, Marcia will retire, ending her time behind the circulation desk. On a recent afternoon, Marcia sat in the quiet of the Perry Room, the library’s spot for rare and historic books, to talk about her own stories of being a part of so many lives.
“I really loved working the front desk and seeing people, getting to know them, hearing their stories, hearing about their kids and their grandkids,” she said.
Before starting at the library in 1985 as a page – a staff member who reshelves the books – Marcia and her husband, Jim, would bring their children to the library. The librarian at the time, Anna Shewbridge, noted her love of books and asked Marcia if she would like a job.
“We were here so much and our youngest had just started kindergarten, so it just worked out,” Marcia said.
After only three weeks of shelving books, Mrs. Shewbridge realized Marcia’s skills would be better utilized at the front desk, where she has stayed, seeing a change in librarians and the patrons.
“I don’t really feel old until someone comes in with their grandkids, until a kid who was six or seven when I first met them and now they walk in here with their grandkids,” she said with a laugh. “That makes me feel old.”
Marcia has also enjoyed the comradery of working with a group of people who shared her appreciation of what the library means to a community.
“People who work in a library, most of them share my love for books,” she said. “When you work with a group of people who love books, it’s just fun.”
A lover of mysteries and non-fiction, Marcia avoids books with a story that ventures into the more mystical aspects of fiction.
“Everybody has different tastes. My friend Sue, she likes mysteries but she loves time travel. I have no use for time travel,” she said.
If she was able to jump back in time, Marcia said she might have worked at a craft store where she could indulge her love in crafts, like quilt making and sewing.
“Our mother made all of our dresses so my sister and I were introduced to making things when we were very young,” Marcia said, remembering her early years growing up near Cincinnati, Ohio.
She left Ohio to work for the government in Washington, D.C., where she met her husband, Jim. He was in the U.S. Air Force for more than 20 years before taking a job with the National Park Service, where he worked at a number of historic sites, including Ford’s Theater, in Washington. Eventually, they settled in Charles Town, where Jim’s father had moved.
“We loved this area, with the mountains and the fresh air,” she said.
For several years, Marcia found herself managing the operations of the library, but she said that working with the people at the front desk remained her favorite part of the job.
“I wasn’t the librarian, I was just in charge,” she said, adding that being the boss was not a natural fit for her. “I’m a worker bee, I guess.”
But the library world changed for Marcia when the current Coronavirus situation closed the doors to the friends she has made: the patrons who bring their children and grandchildren. She misses the chance to pass out lollipops after Story Time and to chat about the lives of the young families.
“Since the close, it’s an entirely different feel. It’s very quiet. Since we’re doing the curbside, you get to see some people. That’s been a little better.”
As she sat in the room, quiet even for a library, she told of those memories that fill her own storybook. The terrible day in September of 2001, when people came into the library for security and news of the world as it changed for the worse. And also those happy times with the children, some now grown, and of course, the odd things as well.
“One day, an elderly lady and her daughter came in. They looked for books and a little while after they left, we got a call from the daughter,” Marcia remembered. “She said her mother’s upper teeth had been bothering her while she was at the library and she thought she took them out and put them in the stacks somewhere.
“Well, nobody wanted to be the one to find those teeth. ‘You go look for them, no, you go. I’ve been here longer!’ Well, we never did find them, but the next week, the lady came in again and she had a full set of choppers.”
Marcia said she is about an inch shorter now than when she started – about four feet, eleven inches tall, but still tall enough to see the patrons when they begin to arrive again. And she is looking forward to the stories and even a little bit of mystery that comes with the territory.
“People just don’t know half the that craziness goes on here,” she said. “It’s not as much stress as an emergency room but you never really know what’s going to come in that front door.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Marcia’s last day at her post is July 30. Feel free to drop her a line or give her a call at 304-725-2208. You can also send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org