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Pitts Honored For 39 Years At Library


November 22, 2018

Photo provided

Glenda Pitts spends time at the Shawnee Splash Park reading to the kids about sharks.

A reading of "Over the river and through the woods to grandfather's house we go," the beloved children's poem about a long ago sleigh ride to a family holiday dinner, was how the honoree began at Shawnee's Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at Celebration of Life Park downtown on Friday night.

Glenda Pitts, children's library manager at the Shawnee Public Library across Shawnee's Main Street from the park, was the children's literature authority who read the poem to the crowd assembling. "It was about 7 pm, before all the wonderful kid singers began singing their carols," Pitts said Saturday.

She was being honored by the event's sponsor, Safe Events for Families (SEFF), for her approaching retirement following 39 years of service to the Shawnee library.

A farewell reception in the Shawnee resident's honor will be from 3:30-5 pm Friday, Jan. 4, at the library, Peggy Cook, branch manager of the Shawnee Library, announced.

"We work with SEFF at the library," Cook told the crowd as she introduced Pitts and asked her to read a poem.

"Over the river and through the woods" was Pitts' appropriate selection. "It was 'to Grandfather's house' when the poem was written in 1844," she said. "They made it 'to Grandmother's house,' in the early 1900s," Pitts explained.

She reaches that 39th anniversary and officially retires on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.

Pitts said when awards would be given to people who had worked 40 years, she and a fellow librarian who has been at the Shawnee library about that long would say, 'How in the world would you ever work at the same place for 40 years?'

Her comment now is, "Where in the world does the time go?"

She was born in Oakland, Calif., in 1952, to parents who had graduated high school in Arkansas. "Along with the Okies, the Arkies also went to California," Pitts said. Her parents only stayed about six months after her arrival, before returning to Harrison, Ark., where she grew up.

She graduated from a rural high school in Valley Springs, Ark., where she got her first taste of library work while serving as a volunteer library aide at the high school library.

Pitts received a bachelor's degree in child development and family relations from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. "My favorite college course was children's literature, another sign I should work in children's books," she said.

After graduation, she worked in Arkansas for a couple of years as a curriculum resource person for a day care center for employees of Washington Regional Hospital in Fayetteville.

Her family moved to Shawnee in 1979. Here, Pitts first worked in a child care center at St. Benedict Catholic Church; later at a child care center called Humpty Dumpty, on Bryan across from the country club. "It's been gone for a long time," she said.

In 1981, she accepted a job at Carnegie Library (now the Pottawatomie County district attorney's offices next door to the courthouse).

Pitts began as a part-time library shelver before advancing to library clerk, "where you help people check in and check out books. In late 1981, I was hired as a child's services assistant at Carnegie."

She was the assistant for about 10 years, before the Shawnee Public Library was moved into a new building - its present location at Philadelphia and Main - about 1990.

At that time, she was named children's manager. "I've held that position ever since," she said.

As children's department manager, Pitts supervises a team of librarians who provide services to kids under age 12. Among the department's services are story time, special programs and outreach in the community, such as Cops and Kids, Boo on Bell, and other events aimed at parents and children.

They also will do story times at day care centers.

"A big part of our job in the library here is having conversations, (encouraging) them to read. We call that 'reader's advisory.' It's to parents and children." Pitts said she believes it is important that librarians make connections with the patrons.

The Pioneer Library System, of which Shawnee's library is a branch, "is all about learning; engagement in the community," Pitts said, to pass along what they try to do in the children's department here.

"The big word is Early Literacy Skills. The critical time is age four, because that is when so much brain growth is going on.

"We offer all kinds of educational programs that get the parents and the kids to come in.

"We sing, we talk, we play, we read, we rhyme - and we learn," Pitts said.

Turning to her retirement coming up on Jan. 7, concluding 39 years' work at the library, Pitts said she is going to do "much traveling."

Her mother is still living in Harrison, Ark., and she wants to spend "quite a bit of time with her."

Pitts has four grandchildren who live with her daughter Emily in Rapid City, South Dakota, and a great-grandchild is due in December, so she hopes to spend "lots of time with them.

"I also want to do volunteer work at the library. I will be glad to help them out with whatever they need me for.

"I've had two great mentors in my life here at the library," Pitts continued. "They both worked in Shawnee and the Pioneer Library System. "

One was Teresa Dickson, now retired and living in Norman, with whom Pitts worked at Carnegie Library. Dickson was instrumental in having the new building built, and later moved into administration, she said.

The other was the late Yvonne Hinchee, who was Pitts' supervisor when Hinchee was head of the children's department, before becoming Shawnee branch manager.

"Those two ladies taught me a lot about libraries," Pitts said.

Her current branch manager, Peggy Cook, Friday said of Pitts, "she's really awesome."


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