by Richard Sheir
Mary Jane Manahan died last month. Her name may not be familiar, but you may remember her as the red-haired head of the Kellogg-Hubbard Library’s children’s room for many years. In fact, people in their 20s who now have children of their own may remember her from their own childhoods.
By securing the funding, it was Senator Patrick Leahy who figuratively put the Kellogg-Hubbard’s children’s wing in place, but it was Mary Jane who built the spirit inside. She established the vibe that exists to this day. The Kellogg-Hubbard children’s room is a warm place where the love of books is assumed. Not e-books but hold-them-in-your-hand books. A library card is a magic pass to lands far away, a magic pass to tales that bewitch and bestow joys that videos can never touch. And there isn’t a website yet created that is one-eighth as cool as Mary Jane was when it came to finding the book you wanted … that you didn’t even know you wanted. She was a magician who could read your mind and come up with books that were so much more than you ever dreamed they would be. She not only knew you, she knew your parents, too. She was almost like family.
Like Mary Jane, the members of the children’s library staff care about your kids like they are family. They listen attentively to the rambling stories. They read at story hour. They smile and say hello to you on the street. In fact, that is the image in my mind of Mary Jane. Mary Jane really had the 1960’s Carnaby Street, Judy Carne-look down and you don’t see that much anymore. It was a really fun look for a person whose face seemed incapable of frowns. A smile and a wave. That’s how I remember Mary Jane Manahan.
Mary Jane Manahan’s family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances celebrated her life with great stories and memories, laughter, and plenty of tears. Mary Jane made the children’s library a very special place for Montpelier’s children and families, but, as Grace Greene reminded us at the gathering, Mary Jane’s contributions were felt throughout Vermont because she served on several advisory and working committees on behalf of children’s literacy.
Mary Jane was one of a kind: Very intelligent, very creative, very giving, completely knowledgeable of the children’s collection, and a voracious reader of adult nonfiction. She had a killer fashion sense, knew how to make work fun, and had an infectious smile. Thank you Mary Jane for everything you gave us.