A fond farewell

The Ashland library staff, patrons and loads of kids will say farewell to children's librarian Margie Cicerrella as she retires at the end of the week.

The community is invited to a celebration of Cicerrella's 21 years of library service at 2 p.m. today in the children's section of the library at 410 Siskiyou Blvd.

"Margie has such a connection with the kids here," said Ernesto Ramirez, who frequents the library with his young sons. "She's always sweet and so knowledgeable. I think the whole community is going to miss her."

Cicerrella started her library career in 1989 as a summer volunteer assisting in the children's library. After receiving her library science certification a few years later, she worked with Jackson County's Story Mobile and Children's Outreach program, which delivered books to children. Later, she took over as a full-time children's librarian in Ashland, organizing reading programs and story times.

"Some of the kids I remember who used to come to story time are now getting their master's degrees. It has been such fun to see them grow up," said Cicerrella.

Cicerrella has been the driving force behind children's literacy programs in the county, securing funding and coordinating the Babies in the Library and Wobblers (babies 12-36 months) programs that focus on early literacy skills such as rhyming, repetition, reading aloud and oral language.

Early literacy has been a passion for Cicerrella and her knowledge of the topic has been an asset to the library's programs and the community, her colleagues said. Although she is retiring, Cicerrella will continue coordinating the babies and wobblers programs.

Additionally, she spearheaded the Welcome Baby Book Bags program. With the help of volunteers, the program gives parents with children born at Ashland Community Hospital a canvas bag containing board books to promote language development and engage infants, a library card application and literacy information.

Cicerrella said that when the Friends of the Ashland Library asked how the proceeds from its fundraising should be used, she was quick with an answer: "Books for babies, of course."

Branch Manager Amy Blossom said Cicerrella has done far more than people realize.

"She's one of those behind-the-scenes people," Blossom said. "She's done so much for adult and children's literacy here, organizing programs and encouraging reading. It may seem like she's just reading stories and playing with the kids, but there's science and knowledge behind it. She's taken something vital and important and made it fun. She is amazing."

Reference librarian Amy Kinard agrees that Cicerrella is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to reading and learning. "What a resource," said Kinard. "She knows so much about child development and inspiring literacy for the whole family."

Cicerrella said families are a favorite aspect of her job. "I love working with the entire family and helping to encourage reading for everyone," she said. "We grow our readers. Babies are born learning, and reading aloud is the most important element in getting a child to read."

Emily Strong, who visits the library with her daughters, said Cicerrella will be missed. "We just love coming to the library, and Margie makes us feel special because she knows our kids and what they like to read. We've been so lucky to have her."

Although Cicerrella said she'll miss seeing the children and families every day, she's looking forward to retirement.

"It's time," she said. "My husband and I plan to do some traveling, and we're ready to live life at a slower pace. I'm actually going get a chance to read some books written for adults."

Angela Decker is a freelance writer in Ashland and can be reached at decker4@gmail.com.

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