By Seth Daniel
The checkout desk at the South End branch library will get a little less lively come January when long-time librarian Deborah Madrey retires after a long career in the Boston Public Library (BPL) system.
Catching up to her this month at the Library, she told the Sun that she will miss many of her patrons that she’s served in the South End for the last 22 years – patrons that she considers like extended family.
“The people are the best part of this job,” she said. “My patrons are family. I never married and I have nieces and nephews, but no kids. You get to know many patrons over the years and they are like family…The kids especially. I got on the bus the other day and saw this girl I knew when she was very little. She recognized me and asked if I still worked at the library. The remember and it’s great to see they’re not in trouble or in jail. Many of them are off to college and you like to see them grow up and do well.”
Madrey is well known for intriguing conversations on politics, the Patriots or books, and has enjoyed the South End Branch more than any of her other assignments – which include Uphams Corner (Dorchester) and Copley Square.
“I bid into this position and I got it, and I started on March 8, 1995,” she said. “I’ve been here every since. If I had to do it over again, I’ve always said I would want to come here. What I’ve liked is just how diverse a group of people you have here. You have poor people, affluent people, Spanish speaking people, Asian people and everything else. If fun because it’s not one group, it’s many groups.”
And certainly she said she cannot forget the “doggie” group.
“I will certainly miss my doggie friends,” she said. “I always had dog biscuits for them. They are my buddies, including Bruno, Darth Vader and the late great Paco.”
Madrey was born and raised in Boston to a family of five brothers and one sister – raised in the days when, as she put it, “children were the remote control.” She graduated from the Jeremiah Burke High School (when it was only for girls) and was the first in her family to go to and graduate college, finishing at Emerson College in 1973.
It was during her days at Emerson that she got acquainted with the library, working there part-time as a student starting in 1971. As an education major, she first got a job at a private school in the area for five years, and then moved to the West Coast to teach there for another five years.
However, upon returning home to Boston, she wanted a break from the classroom, and found just that break in the Library. She had worked for a librarian in Copley during college, and she went to visit her after returning home. The woman, Ruth Kaplan, suggested she give the library another try.
She ended up at the Uphams Corner branch in Dorchester for 10 years, and then transferred to the South End in 1995.
That’s where she stayed.
In retirement, she said not to count on her becoming a couch potato. She plans to study at Boston University’s Evergreen Program to keep her mind sharp.
“I like to keep my mind going,” she said. “These classes are for seniors. Two of my patrons told me about it. I’m not going to be sitting at home all day watching Jerry Springer or Judge Judy. That’s for sure.”
Even with more free time, she said she will miss the people and the conversations on everything from Donald Trump to Tom Brady. “It’s been fun working here,” she said. “There are certain things that are fun. You get to see certain people every day and get to know them. I love to see the babies come in and say ‘hi’ to them. You get certain people you know and enjoy seeing. I’ve had some great conversations here.”