EASTON, Conn. -- Back in the mid-1960s, every time 16-year-old Bernadette Baldino got a call from the North Branch Library in Bridgeport, she became excited.
"I read all the Nancy Drew mysteries and any time the library got a new one in, they would put it aside with my name on it. It cost 98 cents to buy those books and back then, that was a lot of money," said Baldino, now 67, who just retired after 21 years as director of the Easton Public Library.
She will be replaced in Easton by Lynn Zaffino, who is moving up from assistant library director.
Baldino said one of the most enjoyable parts of her job has always been working with the patrons, especially the children.
"I loved interacting with them and helping them choose books, DVDs and music. At this job, I got to do the kind of work I went to library school for," said Baldino, a Trumbull resident who has a bachelor's degree in media studies and communications from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.
In her role as director of the Easton Public Library, Baldino accomplished many things, one of which was heading up a large fundraiser that garnered $24,000. "With this money, we were able to automate the library. Also, we expanded our DVD collection from about 600 DVDs to about 2,000," she said.
In addition, she was responsible for hiring children and teen librarians. "It's important to get children started early in developing a love of reading. The library now has programs for children as young as 6 months old," she said.
The library also offers many programs for tweens and teens. "When kids become tweens, they begin to get very busy with other interests besides reading. They tend to read only what they have to read and don't have the time to read for pleasure," she said.
"The library has many programs for this age group such as theater as well as engineering and charitable projects to keep them engaged with the library."
Baldino said from the time she was young, she always liked being in the atmosphere of a library. Her first job at the age of 16 was as a page, shelving books at the Bridgeport Public Library, located two blocks from her home.
She later worked at the Newfield Branch and the main branch of the Bridgeport Public Library, where she rose up the ranks.
She has had plenty of amusing stories from over the years, which still make her chuckle. One of them began in 1968, when a family with three boys came into the library. "One of the boys, who was about 7, asked me for a book on magic, which I gave him.
"I later found out the family moved out of the neighborhood and I lost contact with them," she said. "Many years later, in the '90s, I was doing some work with children and hired a magician. The young man came right over to me. It was the boy, from many years ago. He gave me back the book."
On another occasion, she was being wheeled into the operating room in the hospital for a procedure when "the man who was wheeling me in suddenly looked down at me and said 'Hello, Mrs. Bernadette.' He recognized me from the library. While I was lying on the gurney, we chatted about him and his sisters and brothers."
Baldino said she enjoyed her 21 years at the Easton Library, watching many of the children grow up. "When you are a librarian, you don't know what impact you are having on children until years later."