46 Fall Matters 2016 T finalmatters Tell Me a Story A South Orange librarian’s daughter remembers BY MEG MARLOWE ILLUSTRATION BY ERIN ROGERS PICKERING The 150th-anniversary year of the South Orange Public Library holds a special place in my heart, for my Mommy – Elaine Marlowe – worked for several decades in the library’s Children’s Room. She was there when I was very little, in the 1960s, and she was my Library School teacher in the old library, in the Connett Building. I remember from Library School that we were very good children, and sat quietly and listened to my mother’s animated readings of the wonderful stories being published around that time. My mother could turn a book reading into a one-woman show. When the new library opened next door to the Connett Building, Mary E. Vorwerk was hired as the Children’s Librarian and became my mother’s boss. There was always a Halloween party in the room off of the Children’s Room, where my mother and Mrs. Vorwerk read to us. There would be a mini-parade in the room, and prizes, and snacks. And in the summer there were the reading challenges: You would keep track of how many books you read on your chart in the library. Schools didn’t give summer assignments when I was a kid, as they do now, but the library picked up the slack. Mommy worked at the library throughout my childhood and teenage years. She and Mrs. Vorwerk continued with Library School and helping children learn to love to read. In 1980, I was 20 years old, and my mom was still working in the Children’s Room. She started having a sore and hoarse throat, but just thought it would soon go away. She finally went to the doctor. After many tests, the answer came back…she had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). She lost her voice, and it seemed she would not be able to work in the library anymore. But the children of the library held a benefit to raise money to buy a newly-designed computer for my mother to use at work. She could type into the computer, and it would speak for her! This was quite a miracle in 1981, and it meant she could continue working with the kids, whom she loved so well, and who loved her as much or more. Sadly, Mommy lost her battle with ALS on June 25, 1983, and Mary Vorwerk passed away in July 1985. I still meet people today who tell me that my mother instilled in them the love of reading, and even some who say she nurtured their dreams through learning when they were children. A librarian remains an important member of the village enabling our children to grow strong and wise. Meg, left, with her mother and her brother Kevin, 1971.