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Saltwater Portrait

Maureen Miller: A rock star for 4-year-olds

Lewes library children’s librarian retires
Maureen Miller has been the children’s librarian at the Lewes Public Library since 2000. NICK ROTH PHOTO
July 18, 2017

A generation of children has passed through the doors of the Lewes Public Library, and while their journeys often go in different directions when they grow older, many have one common stop along the way – Maureen Miller.

Miller was the children's librarian in Lewes for the last 17 years and served as a a volunteer for 10 years prior to that. She developed a story hour with the late Kem Mitchell that has blossomed over the last three decades into one of the most popular events at the library. Growth of the program has been dramatic since the new library opened in 2016.

"We went from an average of 28 participants in the old building to 55 now," she said. "It's not uncommon to have 60 or 70 people in here."

But with the impending birth of her first grandchild, she knew it was time to pass the torch to someone new. She retired in June, handing over her duties to Jennifer Noonan.

As she prepared for her final few days, she reminisced about her time at the library.

"My first little guys are in college now," she said. "I watched them grow up in the community. They don't necessarily remember me because they were preschoolers, but their parents obviously remember me. My husband calls me a rock star for the 4-year-olds."

Though the role of a children's librarian was a natural fit for Miller, it was not what she had envisioned for her career. She studied biology at Notre Dame and briefly worked for an environmental engineering firm before starting a family. She says her education would still come in handy as the children's librarian.

"When the science and math came in, it was a no-brainer for me," she said. "It was really easy for me to do that stuff."

Story time has evolved over the years. Her summer school-aged program has evolved from arts and crafts to actually doing science, she said. If crafts are involved, she said, it is usually an open-ended activity. "We'd rather have the children be creative," she said.

Reading and teaching children has always come naturally to Miller. Her mother was a teacher, after all. "I especially liked doing story times and connecting a child with just the right book," she said.

So how does a children's librarian pick her favorite book? It's not easy. "It's kind of like asking what's your favorite child," she said before picking "Seven Silly Eaters" by Mary Ann Hoberman and "The Dot" by Peter Reynolds.

Of course, there's also "Wheels on the Bus" by Paul O. Zelinsky, which was always the last book Miller read at each story time since she started as children's librarian in 2000. Some books can get stale, she said, but not that one. By her estimation, she's read "Wheels on the Bus" nearly 2,500 times in the last 17 years.

Before retiring, Miller wanted to put the finishing touches on the children's library in the new facility. She served on the design committee and had a hand in much of the look and feel of the new space.

"I designed the children's room around the American Library Association's Every Child Ready to Read at Your Library initiative," she said. "It breaks it down into five elements - reading, writing, talking, singing and playing. There are areas to do all those things in the kids' room."

Miller is married to University of Delaware oceanographer Doug Miller, whom she met at Notre Dame. The couple has three children - Sarah, Laura and Jon - and two sons-in-law.

Originally from Memphis, Miller moved to Delaware from Seattle in 1985 when her husband started teaching at UD's College of Earth, Ocean and Environment. Her husband is now winding down his time at UD, and the couple plans to spend their newly found free time traveling and visiting their new grandson.

Noonan takes over as children's librarian

The Lewes Public Library is excited to announce Jennifer Noonan as the new children's services librarian. Noonan steps into the shoes of Maureen Miller, as Miller retires following nearly 20 years of service.

Noonan moved to southern Delaware from New York City in 2010, and settled with her family in Lewes. In New York, she worked for MTV Networks, managing the video library for the websites in the Nickelodeon Kids & Family group, including Nickelodeon, TeenNick and Nick at Nite. It was there she began work on her master's in library and information science, which she received from Syracuse University in 2013. Since coming to Sussex County, Jennifer has remained active in the community and schools, serving on the committees to develop the library at Sussex Academy, and the children's wing at the new Lewes History Museum.

"I'm thrilled to take on this position," she said. "It's a perfect fit, and I couldn't be happier to get back into the business of serving the needs of kids and families."

Noonan is keeping library staples like the Tuesday and Wednesday morning story-times. "We want to keep the little guys coming in," she said.

But she plans on introducing some new programming to draw in a wider audience, particularly school-age kids. "The goal is to get more kids to come into the library – maybe kids who wouldn't have really thought to before. We want them to see it as a place to be."

For more information about the Summer Reading Program and all the resources the Lewes Public Library has to offer, go to www.leweslibrary.org.

 

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