Jan Swanson: The Library is the Place To Be
For over 30 years and at two different locations, librarian assistant Jan Swanson has been one of the most popular mainstays at The Henry Carter Hull Library.
Jan has been at the library since 1986, when she first was a volunteer fixing books.
“I do love books, and by then, my kids had grown older,” Jan says of her decision to start volunteering. “In those days, when I say repairing books, we were really taping them back together. There were no wasted dollars,” Swanson says with a laugh.
Even though volunteering at the library was not originally something she had in mind, Jan says she became friendly with the children’s librarian.
“I was spending a lot of time in the children’s section since that’s where the book repairs were needed. She encouraged me to apply, and so I did, and I’ve been very happy since,” says Jan.
Nearly 40 years later, Jan is still there. She says her main duties include typical functions such as checking in or out books, but she’s well known for running the book sale.
“I’m in charge of the book sale. All of the proceeds pay for library programs. All of the books in the sale are library discards or donations,” Jan explains.
She is also well known because she runs a craft program for kids every Saturday.
“We do a different craft for the kids, there’s no registration, but it’s first come, first served. We do a different craft every week,” Jan says.
During a recent interview with the Harbor News, Jan mentions as an example, a recent craft made using toilet paper rolls.
“Every time I see [it], it makes me laugh,” Jan says with a chuckle. The crafts start at 10 a.m.
More people may recognize Jan from the fabric picture on display in the children’s room that Jan was the model for.
“A woman came in and asked to take a picture of me, and I didn’t think twice. Next thing I know, I see the picture that was made using fabric. She’s an artist who has done several of these. People still come in and see it and then turn around and ask me, ‘Is that you?’ which is funny,” Jan says.
As somebody who has been at the library so long, Jan has seen many changes — from the introduction of social media to new staff members — but none has been bigger than the change in library locations that happened in 1998. The old library was located in downtown Clinton, and though some people fondly remember the location, the building had its quirks.
“This new one is better. In the old library, the children’s room was on the second floor with no elevator, which was very awkward if you were a parent with a young kid,” Jan recalls. “When they said they were moving to the current location, I remember the director saying we can have the children’s room and the noise downstairs; it’s already handicap-accessible, all very adaptable,” Jan adds.
It’s no surprise that after having been at the library so long, Jan is quite fond of the library and doesn’t hesitate when asked her favorite aspect.
“Oh, it’s the meeting all the people. I’ve made a lot of friends here, which I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t working here,” Jan says. In fact, when pressed on if there was a downside to her job, Jan replies, “Honestly, I don’t think there is a hardest part of being here.”
Jan says to this day, people still come into the library and mention to her how much they love the library. “It really is a wonderful place,” she says.
Jan originally grew up in Middletown on a dairy farm but has called Clinton home for 60 years. “I got married, and my husband was from Clinton, and I’ve been here since. I’ve grown roots here,” she says.
Even while growing up, Jan says her family used to spend a week at the beach in Clinton each year, so she’s long been fond of the town. In her spare time, she enjoys what she calls her “favorite thing in the world” — vacationing in Cape Cod. Jan also says she enjoys driving around town in her red 1987 Chevy pickup truck.
“It’s a library icon at this point. I park it practically in the same part every day unless my husband has it for some reason, and people always get a kick out of it and give a thumbs up or make a comment when they see it,” she says. “It’s great fun to see people waving.”
Asked her favorite part about living in Clinton, Jan doesn’t hesitate to talk about the people in the community.
“The people here are all really friendly and nice. You also see people of all different backgrounds, which I get to see at the library, and I think is great,” she says.