• 79°

A chapter ends but the storyteller reads on: Children’s librarian honored today for three decades of service

For 31 years, the children’s books of the Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library haven’t just been managed by Donna Kenney; they have been imprinted upon her heart.

The uncanny ability to remember and locate seemingly every item in the children’s section can be attested to by the generations of kids and parents who have taken a vague memory of a story to the children’s librarian. Often, they would find the sought-after book pressed into their hands just minutes later.

Kenney retires today. A public reception will be held in her honor from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Brookhaven library.

DAILY LEADER / PRISCILLA LOEBENBERG / On Monday, Donna Kenney read from one of her favorite books, "How do dinosaurs eat their food?" by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. Kenney retires this week after 31 years as children's librarian and will be honored at a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. today.

DAILY LEADER / PRISCILLA LOEBENBERG / On Monday, Donna Kenney read from one of her favorite books, “How do dinosaurs eat their food?” by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. Kenney retires this week after 31 years as children’s librarian and will be honored at a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. today.

Co-workers were quick to list Kenney’s many accomplishments as children’s services coordinator for the region, but it was her skill as a storyteller that might have been most admired.

In a casual conversation, Kenney might seem thoughtful and deliberate. However, when she picks up a favorite book, she virtually glows with animation and passion for the characters she loves. Some of her favorite characters include Skippyjon Jones, Pete the Cat and the llamas of Anna Dewdney’s books.

She has a gift, said former librarian Rebecca Nations. Kenney was also known for puppet shows and other creative presentations for the children of the region.

Although Kenney’s performances have been well loved for decades, her job was much more than just fun and games. Nations said Kenney’s responsibilities included guiding children’s programs for all four libraries. She secured grants library materials, planned the summer reading program, coordinated art exhibits and created displays. She was also the local liaison for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, said Nations.

“She is a very caring person,” said Nations. “We will miss her.”

Kenney said her greatest joy at work has been finding the right book for so-called reluctant readers.

“It’s almost like going fishing. You have to have the right bait,” she said. Kenney said she talks to a child about his likes and interests before coming up with suggestions. Sometimes, she said, she might even recommend books on CD – to the surprise of some frustrated parents.

“There are so many different ways to learn,” said Kenney, who does whatever it takes to match kids up to their perfect books.

One of her favorite moments in the job came when one of the children she served brought a friend to her years later with an indistinct memory of a story she once told him. He wanted her to tell the whole story to them, she said.

“They were going to Africa for a Peace Corps mission. I like to think they took the story to Africa and told it there,” said Kenney. “That would be great if they did.”

Library assistant Sonja Laiche said a commitment to public service is what defines Kenney’s character.

“She always made the children feel special,” said Laiche. “All these years she has been faithful in caring for the community, especially the children of the community. I hope her retirement is everything she wants it to be.”