By Aimee Hancock
PIQUA — After over four decades of service, Piqua resident Nancy Spillane recently retired from the Piqua Public Library Children’s Department.
Spillane, 85, left her position with 45 years under her belt earlier this month. Originally from Iowa, Spillane moved to Piqua in 1958 with her husband, Bob, who passed away 30 years ago. It was in September of 1976 when Spillane began working at the library, noting she had initially not intended to work in the library for long.
“I was going to work for five years while our daughters were in college,” Spillane said.
Spillane was a stay at home mom to two girls. She had decided, once the children were older, that she would get a college degree. After graduating with a degree in elementary education from Wright State University, she learned of the open position at the library.
“A friend of mine told me there was an ad in the Piqua Daily Call for a librarian and I said, ‘No, I want to teach. I don’t want to be in the library’ … but I thought, ‘Why not?’”
Set on eventually becoming a teacher, Spillane said she was up front about her intentions when she interviewed for the position.
“I proceeded to tell Wally White, who was the director at the time, that I really wanted to teach. Who does that? Who goes to apply for a job and says, ‘I really don’t want it; this is what I want,’” Spillane recalled. “But he immediately told me why I’d rather be in the library. The next day he called and offered me the position.”
Spillane was hired as a library assistant rather than head librarian due to the fact that she did not have a Master’s in Library Science degree, which is often preferred for librarians. She worked as assistant to head Librarian Linda Grimes for 17 years before eventually becoming coordinator of the children’s department.
Soon after her start at the library, Spillane said she, Grimes and White had started offering puppet shows to visitors, an act that quickly became near and dear to Spillane’s heart and which she became known for. Spillane said she had been responsible for writing original scripts for the shows, which is something she took pride in.
“The three of us were doing the puppets, and they were terribly crude now that I think about it, but that ended up being my first love: the puppet stage,” Spillane said. “That’s the part I will miss more than anything else.”
Her role in the puppet shows, along with her consistent presence at the library, gave Spillane the opportunity to play a significant part in many childhoods.
“So many times, of course because I’ve been here so long, there will be patrons, old and young, who will remember me for certain things and so many will talk about the puppet shows and the characters,” she said. “I’ve loved every minute of doing it, but it’s all the rewards that I’ve gotten back over the course of the 45 years that have meant so much.”
The proposed five-year mark quickly came and went, and Spillane said she never looked back.
“I loved what I was doing. It was just kind of my thing,” she said.
Another program created during Spillane’s time at the library was the summer reading program, which has remained popular through the years. Each year’s program centers around a different theme.
Spillane said the goal of the program was to simply get kids in the library.
“I said, ‘If we could find something to get the kids in to check out books, and then give them something fun to do when they came back, we could get them to read more,’” she said. “The whole idea is that if they can have fun when they come to the library, they’ll come back and get more books. That’s the goal at the end, to have them reading.”
Spillane said the children have always remained at the center of her efforts within the library.
“It’s the kids—they are priceless,” she said. “It’s kind of a cliche, I guess, but I just love working with the kids and appreciate all they’ve given back to me through the years.”
Though Spillane never did become a teacher, she said her time at the library has given her more than she had hoped possible. Along with the children she served, she said her fellow staff members helped keep things fun.
“We have always had lots and lots of laughs in our department, that’s one of the things about our staff,” she said. “I will miss it.”
As for what’s next, Spillane said she’s not quite sure, noting that her decision to retire came in May of this year. However, plans for the future will certainly include spending time with her two children, five grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
As of now, a replacement for Spillane has not been selected by the Piqua Public Library.