New chapter for retiring Sheffield librarian Nancy Hahn


SHEFFIELD -- Nancy Hahn has skied down the Alps in Germany after delivering books to a Patriot missile site, competed against CIA intelligence officers to gather information for the U.S. Department of Defense and hand-selected reading material for high-security prisoners.

Sheffield's librarian for more than a decade is about to add a bookend to a long-storied career, which included stints as an academic, school and -- for most of her career -- as a military librarian.

Hahn, 71, will have a farewell reception to celebrate her retirement from the town's Bushnell-Sage Library on Friday, Dec. 14, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Since 1929, Hahn has the distinction of being one of only three librarians since the library has had its own location. Her retirement ends a 10-year run, during which she has worked with a committee to draft a long-range library plan, introduced a popular local author program and expanded community outreach.

"She's been very enthusiastic and supportive of additional programs outside of the regular work of the library," said Betty LeGeyt, the chairwoman of the library's board of trustees.

LeGeyt said a committee is currently assigned with the task of finding an interim librarian. A full-time librarian could be hired by late spring, LeGeyt said.

Hahn was struck with a passion for books early. By 11, Hahn was volunteering at the Lenox Library. She would go on to earn her undergraduate degree in European history and two master's degrees -- one in library and information science and the other in education.

From the 1960s through the early 1970s, her career included stints at the Harvard Law School Library, Lesley University Library, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University where future ambassadors and State Department employees would roam the halls.

Through the mid-1970s through 2000, Hahn worked as a librarian for the Department of Defense based in Maryland where she once asked a library patron to use their tank to run over a library building that was condemned.

"I took care of the problem," said Hahn, who said the building was no longer in use. "[The military] didn't need to worry about it."

As a librarian based out of southwest Germany in Karlsruhe, Hahn recalled learning German -- she already spoke Spanish and French -- by joining the local tennis league in her early 30s.

While stationed in Germany, she would retrieve reading material for high-security prisoners -- the books had to be non-political, she said -- and also bring books to soldiers on remote missile sites by snowmobile.

Hahn said she would ski her way down the mountain to get back to work.

Military officers would need information and she would race intelligence officers to see who could provide the information first.

"I held my own," said Hahn, who said her studies in European history came in handy.

That allowed her an open door to the Department of Defense War Room at times, she said.

Hahn expressed satisfaction after her work in libraries, which she describes as fundamental to democracy.

Describing libraries as a location with "lots and lots of information," Hahn said, "If people have information and they are well-read they make better decisions in life."

"You have to love books and I would also say now technology as well," Hahn said. "You really have to like work and people."

Hahn said that a librarian should love reading, which she does.

"You're in a position where you can really help people," Hahn said.

On some days, these people might be adults seeking literature about divorce, while in her earlier years that might be helping an officer find out the exact measurements of a runway in Rwanda.

"I was not important," said Hahn, recalling those early years where she worked with total concentration without food or sleep to get the mission accomplished for the military. "I was a librarian, but I had a lot of fun finding information."

Hahn doesn't have a favorite genre of books -- rather she's a fan of all genres, and she's read too many to have a favorite author or book. But, she said, her retirement will include plenty of time in front of many more books.


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