The Day – ‘She made the library what it is today’: Gale Bradbury to retire from Ledyard Libraries after 42 years
Ledyard — When Gale Bradbury started working at Ledyard Libraries, librarians had to alphabetize all the borrowed book cards at the end of each day and call or send letters to people whose books were overdue. She said digitization has saved an “incredible amount” of time, freeing up time to plan programs.
Bradbury became director of the Bill Library and the Gales Ferry Library in 1988, and she has seen a lot of change during this time. An addition tripled the size of Bill Library. Cassettes have given way to books on CD, and now Bradbury sees that fading too, as people turn to downloads – and new cars don’t come with CD players. Bill Library also got a grant for a soundproof booth for people who might need to go there for a telehealth appointment or to take a test.
Libraries have been getting more into virtual programming, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. And that’s without going into all the changes to help people apply for jobs and learn about technology.
After more than 40 years at Ledyard Public Libraries and more than 30 as director, Bradbury announced earlier this year that she is retiring, effective June 1.
“She made the library what it is today,” said Technical Services Manager Andrea Buka, who has worked at Ledyard Libraries for 25 years. Jan Dawson, secretary and technical services assistant, said the most important things she learned from Bradbury were patience and finding ways to find solutions to problems.
Dawson said Bradbury has been excellent at encouraging staff, such as encouraging Buka to launch the Artists and Writers Showcase – a victim of layoffs due to budget cuts – and the Maker Scheme, through which people offered workshops on the production of maple syrup, blacksmithing and Tunisian crochet. .
There will be a community reception for Bradbury at Bill Library, 718 Colonel Ledyard Highway, at 11 a.m. on May 18, which Mayor Fred Allyn III has designated Gale Bradbury Day. He will read a proclamation, there will be a presentation and other speakers, and the floor will be opened for attendees to remember.
A reception will be held the following day from 10 a.m. to noon at Gales Ferry Library, 18 Hurlbutt Road, where the public is invited to greet Bradbury and meet the new manager, Jen Smith.
the Connecticut Library Association recently selected Bradbury as Outstanding Librarian, and she will be honored at this year’s CLA convention on May 4.
all about people
Bradbury is from Marshfield, Mass., and began his career as a librarian there, starting in high school.
“I so appreciate the people you meet on a daily basis,” she said. “They’re always so grateful when you get the resources they want and they’re surprised if they haven’t been to the library in a while.”
By 1980, Bradbury had recently married and moved to Connecticut, and was looking to re-enter the workforce. She started at Ledyard that year as an assistant librarian, doing referrals but also supporting children’s services.
Bradbury said one of the best things for Ledyard was getting involved in the LION, or Libraries Online Inc., a consortium in 1982, which allows people to borrow materials from other libraries and provides other shared services. Ledyard was the first to go live on LION, and the network now has more than 30 libraries across Connecticut.
It was also the year of completion of a construction project that tripled the size of the Bill Library, expanding the space for children, adding a meeting room and providing more seating.
Over the past few years, Bradbury said the library has used a grant from the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut to reconfigure bookshelves to make room for teens, add outdoor seating, improve lighting in the children’s zone and upgrade the website.
The Gales Ferry Library is much smaller, but this building was extended in 1991, and rooms for children and teenagers were added a few years ago. Bradbury thinks Gales Ferry’s children’s room is the thing that has made her happiest since she was director of the library.
It is unusual for a town the size of Ledyard to have two libraries – although Bradbury regards it as a library in two buildings, Gales Ferry Library as a sister library rather than a branch – and there are periodically efforts to close Gales Ferry.
“However, people here are very attached to their library,” Bradbury said. She added that they have very different collections and there is not a lot of overlap, saying the Gales Ferry library is more of a popular reading library, while the Bill library is more focused on non- fiction and reference.
The information available at the Bill Library on local history also expanded under Bradbury, and the libraries held a variety of programs.
Bradbury said there were only standing places during a series a few years ago on estate planning. Gardening programs have become popular and Ledyard launched a seed library a few years ago, in partnership with the Ledyard Garden Club and Holdridge Home & Garden.
Graphic novels have become popular with teenagers, and Bradbury said Ledyard has started a collection of graphic novels among adults, but that’s taking longer.
As for her own reading tastes, Bradbury said she’s “a big fan of historical fiction” and enjoys reading novels by Catherine Coulter, Kristin Hannah and Diana Gabaldon. She is currently reading “Go Tell the Bees I’m Gone” by Gabaldon.
Bradbury, 70, said after 40 years of working at Ledyard Libraries she felt it was time to retire. She looks forward to visiting her son in California and spending more time gardening. She lives in Stonington with her husband.
“I know I’m gonna miss it, because I love it,” she said. “I never felt like I didn’t want to come to work.”