Phyllis McGuire: Praise overdue for a library's friendly face

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WILLIAMSTOWN — At the Williamstown annual town meeting May 21, Anne Skinner, president of the Williamstown League of Women Voters, announced that Sam White of the Milne Public Library had been named Town Employee of the Year.

Since the league established the award more than 15 years ago, the name of the awardee has been kept secret until town meeting.

The recipients of the award always have been surprised; some have been rendered speechless. A few years ago, Cathy Vareschi said, "I'm in a fog." Nonetheless, they all have walked to the podium to accept the award and express thanks.

But at this year's town meeting, it became apparent that surprises do not always turn out as expected.

Sam White was not at town meeting.

"Unfortunately, Sam has two jobs, and his second job takes him on Tuesday nights," Skinner explained. Pat McLeod, director of the library, accepted the award on White's behalf. "[Sam] is most deserving for his dedication to serving everyone that comes into the library. He is truly a model for customer service to our community," McLeod has said.

When I caught up with White, he said he would have liked to have been at town meeting to say "Thank you."

As it happened, White did not know he had been named Town Employee of the Year until he received a congratulatory text message. At the texter's suggestion, White watched a film of the meeting on Willinet's website.

"It was a bit surreal to hear the clear sincerity behind the round of applause when Anne Skinner announced my name," White said. "It's humbling, and I have immense gratitude for the kindness people have shown. I just try to greet library patrons as I'd like to be treated were I on the other side of that circulation desk. That people think I've been doing a good job means a great deal to me."

Nothing was left to chance the second time White was given an opportunity to say "thank you." He was told beforehand that he would be recognized as Town Employee of the Year at the Williamstown Select Board Meeting of June 10.

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"Waiting for Anne Skinner and myself to be called to the podium, I was getting a bit of stage fright, with my heart pounding and my palms sweating. The advice I gave myself was to be like Keanu Reeves, an actor noted for his humble, good-natured and relaxed presence," said the movie and computer guru who helps library customers find DVDs as well as books in their collection.

"If someone wants a DVD of a film, but cannot remember its name, I have the skill to find it, with only such clues as they provide me. For instance, they recall a character in the movie wearing a certain kind of hat. I feel like a bit of a detective," he said as he smiled.

White was very pleased that his mother and father were at the Select Board meeting when Skinner presented him with a gilt-edged certificate and a plaque with his name as Town Employee of the Year.

"I thank my parents for exposing me to many kinds of books, movies, all media," he said. "My first memory of a book is my dad reading 'Island of the Skog' to me."

White started working at the library as a volunteer 13 years ago, when he was 19, and when an opportunity arose to be paid for his services, he seized it.

There also were other benefits to working at the library, White discovered.

"I learned to deal with the public, roll with the punches, talk to people and not be shy," he said

White's memories of the library go back to when it was located in the Botsford House on Main Street.

"The circulation desk was taller than me," he said. "Time has flown by."

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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