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Longtime Medina Library storyteller retiring

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    Shirley McDougal, 74, the second-longest-serving employee in the history of the Medina Library, is set to retire in May.

    PHOTO PROVIDED

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MEDINA — A familiar face will be leaving the Medina Library after 37 years.

Shirley McDougal, 74, the second-longest-serving employee in the history of the Medina Library, is retiring in May.

Only one employee had more time on the job with five months more than McDougal, but worked behind the scenes and not daily at the Children’s Desk like McDougal.

She said Thursday that she loved where she worked because she was able to interact with children, parents and so many members of the community.

“I enjoyed sharing what I learned with others so they can pick and choose what they want to pass on,” said the mother of three and grandmother of four. “I like to share what I have learned so people don’t have to do the work.”

McDougal has done more story times, puppet shows, sang more silly songs and helped more families find perfect reading material than any employee — ever, library officials said.

“Shirley is a legend. She’s an amazing storyteller,” said McDougal’s supervisor, Gail Ebey, in a statement. “She will be missed by generations of families and her co-workers. I will miss her impromptu storytelling sessions with staff, where she practices new books, character voices and songs to see what we think.

“Of course, we always think she’s amazing.”

To the contrary, McDougal said it was Ebey who amazed her with willingness to allow her to try new things, be it segments on cooking, science or crafts. Some worked well and others did not, she said.

“I have been fortunate in that I have always been encouraged to do different things,” she said. “When you have an encouraging supervisor, it makes the work nice.”

Ebey said McDougal begins every story time with her puppet friend “Bear” sitting on her lap.

Sometimes she wakes him up if he’s feeling sleepy or asks him to settle down, or convinces him to be her helper.

“Mr. Bear reflects the moods and feelings of children,” Ebey said. “He’s an extension of the children in the story time. He shows kids it’s OK to feel tired, sad or shy. Kids relate to him and often adjust their behavior in story time to complement Mr. Bear.

“I guess this means Bear is retiring, too.”

McDougal said story times open the world of literature to young readers.

“It’s also sharing the books and the love of reading, but not just reading but sharing music and Mother Goose rhymes,” she said. “It’s modeling reading with expression, so the kids really enjoy it.

“And when you do, the elementary kids, they get the joke. The younger kids enjoy the story, but the older kids, they really get it.”

Medina Library manager Christine Gramm, who has worked with McDougal for more than 20 years, said McDougal has an unparalleled knowledge of children’s literature.

“She knows all the books,” she said in a statement. “Families will ask her about the most obscure books from their childhood, maybe only describing the cover or a tidbit from the story, and Shirley will light up when it comes to her.

“She’s also amazing at helping reluctant readers. Parents will say, ‘I’ve run out of books about boys and their dogs,’ and Shirley will take them on a tour of the shelves, pointing out many more titles to entice their young reader.”

Parents can thank years of stocking shelves and clerking for that knowledge.

“Children’s literature is absolutely wonderful, even the picture books,” she said.

McDougal’s influence reaches beyond the library and into the community.

For years she has hosted story times at the Medina County Health Department’s WIC Services Division. She also travels to the Medina County Achievement Center for story times with both the preschool and older students. She also is a volunteer with the Medina County Parks District Earth Day festivities.

After so many years with the library where programming and schedules dictate the day, McDougal said she hasn’t planned out her retirement beyond more volunteering and working with her church.

“I haven’t figured it out yet,” she said.

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