A lot of kids have come through the Brownstown Elementary School library since Thelma Weaver started working there in 1983.
The school averages around 700 students a year, so she said that means there typically are more than 100 new kids each year.
Her highlight is seeing a child check out a book and then come back and tell her about it and what they accomplished, either just finishing it, learning something new or earning Accelerated Reader points.
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“I can think back how many times I’ve heard that, and it gives me the same thrill just like it was the first time,” she said. “To this child, it’s new and it’s wonderful, and I’m just thrilled to death for them. It’s marvelous to see them do that. The expression on their face and how joyful they are at being able to do that, it is awesome.”
Weaver said she has even had students tell her years later that she encouraged them to keep reading. She also inspired her own children to like reading.
“I think that is wonderful,” she said. “I keep telling them that’s what I want them to do — love to read and learn to do that all of the time. You can read what you want to read.”
On May 12, Weaver, 80, worked her last day in the library.
After 51½ years working for Brownstown Central Community School Corp., she decided it was time to retire. School officials said she is one of the corporation’s longest-tenured employees.
“My whole life, it seems, has been regulated by school bells, and I’m not going to be regulated by those anymore,” she said, laughing. “And I can look out when the buses pass and think, ‘I don’t have to get dressed and go this morning.’
“I would like to have a few years just to do whatever I might want to do,” she said. “My health is good, and I just thought this might be the time to do it, so I just decided this was it.”
But that’s not to say she won’t miss seeing the children and staff members every day.
“I think it has been good for me,” she said. “I think if you’re around children like I have been here, it keeps you young and active. It keeps your mind active, and I think too many old people retire too soon. I just thoroughly have loved being here in the library. This is my thing, and I have loved it here. I have just thoroughly enjoyed working here in the school system. It has been a joy.”
Born and raised in Brownstown, Weaver graduated from Brownstown High School in 1954, and then married and started a family.
She spent some time working at the shirt factory in Seymour until quitting there to stay home with her four children and help her husband, Carroll, on their farm west of Brownstown.
“(Farming) was new to me, but I loved it. It was good for the kids,” she said.
In 1966, Brownstown started a teacher’s aide program, so she took on that job. For the first semester, she spent the first half of the day at Vallonia Elementary School and the second half at Tampico. When Tampico closed the next semester, those kids went to Vallonia, so she stayed there all day.
Weaver’s main responsibility was recess duty, but she also helped with cafeteria funds, duplicating, grading tests and other tasks teachers needed.
“My husband didn’t much want me to work full time and be away from the farm, especially in the summertime, and this worked out great because I was home when the kids were home and had my summers off,” she said.
After seven years there, she became the secretary at Brownstown Central Middle School.
In her 10 years there, she kept school records in books and did a variety of other tasks.
“It was interesting because you never knew from one day to the next what you might run into,” she said. “I really liked it. It was a good job.”
When she moved to the elementary library, the book checkout process was much different than it is today.
Students would write their name and room on a card in a pocket in the back of a book, and she would keep the cards and alphabetize them. Then when they returned the book, she would place the card back in the book and put it on the shelf.
About 15 years ago, the checkout process became automated. She said a company took the library’s card catalog and put it into a computer program.
A few years ago, that program was upgraded, requiring her to scan a student’s school identification card, scan a book and stamp the card in the back of the book.
Of the changes over the years, Weaver said the only thing the elementary library doesn’t have is eBooks.
While Weaver said she finds a lot of value in holding a book, she bought an Amazon Kindle and a smartphone and her son bought her an iPad, and she is able to read books on all of them.
“It’s so nice to carry around with you if you think you might need something to read,” she said. “It’s light, and it’s wonderful. I have a book or books with me at all times, so if I get caught someplace, I’ve got something to read. I love that part of it.”
Weaver worked full time in the library until about five years ago. One of her friends, Jane Meadows, had retired and came by one day and told her she would like to work part time in the library.
After receiving approval from the superintendent, Meadows worked Mondays and Tuesdays, and Weaver worked Wednesdays through Fridays.
Despite the change, it still meant there was only one librarian working at a time.
“When you have 700 students that are free to come to the library whenever they want to, we run 300 students through here a day easily, so that is 300 books you’re checking out to a student,” she said.
“You’ve also got to get those 300 books back and on the shelf and repair anything, and then you have salespeople coming in you have to talk to, and you have to look at books and you have to buy new books,” she said. “There’s just so much to do that people don’t see as they pass by.”
As far as staying with the corporation 51½ years, Weaver said she never anticipated that to happen.
But when flooding occurred in the county June 8, 2008, water was 36 inches deep in her and her husband’s home, and they lost everything on the first floor.
They decided to move into town and had to buy new furniture, and since insurance didn’t cover everything, she chose to work a few more years.
Then after Carroll died in 2010, she decided to keep working a few more years.
“But I’ve gotten to the place now where I’m just content at home, and I’m ready,” she said of retiring.
Now, she will have more time to spend on her hobbies, including reading and quilting.
“I’ve gotten back to quilting in the last few years. I’m trying to get a quilt for each of my kids and grandkids and great-grandkids, so I’m going to be doing a lot of quilting,” she said. “I read a lot, so I will continue to read a lot, I’m sure. I’ll have that time now.”
As far as who fills her position at the school, she expects them to stay as busy as she always was.
“Oh, they’ll do it easily,” she said, laughing. “If I can do it, anybody can.”
Name: Thelma Weaver
Education: Brownstown High School (1954)
Occupation: Recently retired after 51½ years with Brownstown Central Community School Corp.
Family: Late husband, Carroll Weaver; children, Rick (Edie) Sons, Bill (Debra) Sons, Tom (Sherry) Weaver and Beth (Steve) Bowling; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren