Auburn’s beloved children’s librarian Deb Cleveland retires to start a new chapter
Deb Cleveland – a beloved book lover, storyteller and children’s librarian – will retire on Thursday after working at the Auburn Public Library for 21 years.
“My life here had a purpose, because I was doing things for other people – for the children and for the community,” said Cleveland, chief children’s services officer and Family Place coordinator at the library. “I am truly honored and grateful to have had this opportunity to be here.”
For Cleveland, the best part of his job was, by far, story time every week.
She loved being able to connect with the kids this way. It reminded her of how she read books to her boys when they were younger, and how her parents read to her and her sister when they were little.
Some of his favorite children’s books include “Wolf Coming” by Joe Kulka and “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey. She also appreciates the works of Chris Van Dusen, Melissa Sweet and Shirley Hughes. She loves Melissa Sweet’s Alfie series because the work is “warm, cozy and inviting.”
Of course, the list doesn’t end there. Cleveland said she can “talk all day” about books, and stressed the importance of making sure children read.
“I’ve heard that if you start reading to a child early on, you really help them in their development,” Cleveland said. “Those who are read at an early age do better in school. “
“And stories can help kids understand other people,” she said. “When you read about people who are different from you, it gives you the opportunity to put yourself in their shoes and see what other people are like, how people live in different places in the world, what other people think about things. Even though we have different opinions on things, or different political views, we have a lot more in common, and stories can bring people together that way. “
She said children’s librarians can play a role in helping them enjoy reading, as they focus on children’s literature and books and can ensure children have access to the “best books.”
Even though she won’t be working in the library anymore, that doesn’t mean she’s giving up on her love of stories.
This August Cleveland is due to become a grandmother and is super excited to read stories and hang out with her new grandchild. As she begins a new chapter in her life, it is clear that she is leaving behind a legacy of stories that will be cherished and told by those who knew her.
Maureen Goff, a former Auburn Public Library Computer Lab volunteer, said Cleveland was “just a great girl.”
“I used to go downstairs to visit her when I was there on Tuesday, but most of all, I saw her when I brought children to the library. She was always helpful, pleasant, never cranky and very outgoing, ”said Goff. “You could tell she loved her job.”
Zack Reinstein, half of Maine-based kindie rock duo Fun Run, who work alongside his wife, Mia, said they often credit Deb with the kick-off in their careers.
“Three summers ago we started shopping at the libraries to see if we could play and Deb was the first librarian to come back to us, putting on a show,” Reinstein said. “Without her, I don’t know if we would be as successful as we are now. “
He mentioned that during the pandemic, he and his wife did three live shows on Facebook, which were “all the idea (from Cleveland).” After one of the shows, Cleveland told her that she and the other library staff had “danced” to their music.
Susan Weiss, administrator on the Auburn Public Library Board of Trustees, said Cleveland was “such a touchstone” in the library.
“She’s right there,” Weiss said. “You go to the children’s room and there’s Deb.”
She told a story where Cleveland helped her over the past year.
“I have a granddaughter who lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was here during COVID, and to keep her in touch with her friends in Brooklyn, her parents zoomed in on history and I was selected for being the reader one night, and I didn’t have time to go to the library, and I emailed Deb and said “Deb, please help me, what is a good story for a 5 year old? “
Shortly after receiving this message, Cleveland gave Weiss a bag of library books which she picked up. All of the books were perfect for the age level.
“I really appreciate the extra work she put in because she didn’t have to,” Weiss said. “She’s really stable. She’s really solid. She is real, kind, loving, intelligent, knows children, knows children’s books. She was an anchor in the children’s room, for me and for our entire community.
“She will be missed,” Weiss said.
The feeling is mutual. Cleveland said he will miss his co-workers, the families who came to the library, the kids and story time.
“The entire state of Maine is really fortunate that the Maine library community is so supportive and innovative,” Cleveland said. “I’m just grateful to have been part of such a wonderful group of people. I am really.”
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