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‘Miss’ Jean bids fond farewell to library after 12 summers

On Friday afternoon, as the children filed out with their prizes and their activity books, Jean Bauer trundled her famed blue “M&M Man” in his Hawaiian regalia out of the library meeting room. “He’s the only thing I am taking with me,” she said with a wistful smile.

After 12 summers as children’s librarian at the Greenville-Butler County Public Library, “Miss” Jean is saying goodbye.

“I do have mixed emotions about this,” she admitted.

“I am really going to miss the children.”

Citing a need to have more free time in her busy schedule as a kindergarten teacher at W.O. Parmer, Bauer says she is ready to pass the torch on to someone else.

“We need someone who can be here more hours and get some programs with the little children started in the early mornings. There will be a lot of changes coming up at the library,” Bauer said.

Her double duties as teacher and children’s librarian have meshed well, she says.

“There were so many ideas and resources I could take from the classroom to the library, and vice-versa. I will miss all that being close at hand. And Sweetie (Burke McFerrin, head librarian) has just been the best. She has been so flexible with me,” Bauer said.

According to McFerrin, giving Bauer, known for her innovative approach to the job, free rein in working with the youngsters served by the library, has proven a win-win situation for the community.

“I never told her she couldn’t do something. I’ve been responsible for getting the money and she’s been responsible for the kids having fun, and it’s worked well,” McFerrin said, adding, “We can’t fail to recognize the board for their support. Without that support from them and the community as a whole, it would never have worked.”

Bauer said she’ll enjoy having her Saturdays off now that she has “retired,” but admits giving up her role as “Miss Jean, the children’s librarian,” will be an adjustment.

“This has been the biggest summer we’ve ever had. We’ve averaged about 65 kids a week – that is a lot of children. Some of those kids I had when they were so small. Now, they are high school seniors,” Bauer said.

“Working here has allowed me to see a great cross-section of the community and I will miss that.”

And she will be missed.

“We’ll be sad to see Jean go, but I also understand where she is coming from,” McFerrin said.

“She has been a great employee, easy to work with, and it’s been fun. It’s a gift to be able to work with young children so well, and I would never have been able to do what she has done with these kids.”

Bauer said the children were anxious to know who her replacement would be.

“When they asked, ‘Well, who are we going to have instead?’ I told them, ‘Someone fabulous who will keep all this going.'”