It’s a familiar sight at the Iowa City Public Library (ICPL): a group of small children happily listening as Miss Nancy reads them a story. Nancy Holland, one of the children’s librarians at the ICPL, has been reading to children, and their appreciative parents, since the 1980’s. But that will end after Monday’s Toddler Storytime, because Holland is retiring after 39 years at the ICPL.
“People specifically come for her and her readings,” said Casey Maynard, another librarian in the ICPL children’s department. “She has garnered a following, and that speaks volumes.”
Nicole Brooks, one of the parents at a recent Toddler Storytime, is part of that following.
“She never simplifies the topics of the readings. She keeps it on a level a child can understand, but makes sure it’s full and true to the material,” Brooks said. “These storytime readings have helped my children develop a love for books, and seeing that other children and adults share that love for books is so important.”
Holland began her career at the Iowa City Public Library working part-time in technical services in 1978, answering the phone and assisting in the conversion of a physical card cataloguing system into a digital system. In 1984, she moved to children’s service.
Holland said she’s enjoyed entertaining toddlers through the years, but pointed out the readings have a serious purpose, too.
“It is the children’s [department’s] mission to start the literary process early, and we do that by leading workshops and storytime programs,” she explained.
Holland has seen plenty of changes in her department over the decades. When she started in 1984, her job was focused on storytime and the bookmobile.
As the role of the department changed and expanded, Holland also helped create a children’s outreach program, where coordinators travel to over 40 Iowa City sites on a weekly basis to provide literacy programming for children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend such programs.
“Looking back, there have been times when I didn’t understand why we were making certain changes, but they always proved to be good changes later on,” Holland said. “[The changes] gave us the opportunity to learn new skills.”
Holland said she has plenty to keep her busy in retirement -— she raises chickens and keeps bees, and plans to travel with her husband — but her ICPL colleagues said they hope Holland will find enough time for Miss Nancy to occasionally be a special guest reader at Toddler Storytime.
Holland’s final Toddler Storytime will be Monday at 10:30 a.m. Her last day at the library will be Friday, Sept. 29.