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By Jan Goben
"And now we're going to do the peek-a-boo song," says Carol Small, standing tall before a group of 2- and 3-year-olds sitting on the rug or on the laps of their mothers or caregivers during the Noe Valley Library's Tuesday-morning lapsit. Fifteen to 20 adults fill the room, each with one or two children in tow.
"Peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo," Small sings out, bending down and putting her hands over her eyes.
One member of the audience stands up and toddles over to Small, staring up into her face as she continues to sing. "I see you, I see you."
The little girl, like two generations of Noe Valley children, is fascinated. But this may be the last time she gets to see the lady with the sweet voice and wonderful picture books.
Small, who has been the children's librarian at the Noe Valley-Sally Brunn Library on Jersey Street since 1990, is retiring Sept. 29.
"I have loved being a children's librarian, and particularly working in Noe Valley, but...I [now] want to give myself more space for other things."
Small has been a librarian for 40 years, and she has spent more time in her current position than anywhere else. From 2003 to 2006, Small was the acting manager of the Noe Valley Branch, as well as the children's librarian. She lives on the outskirts of Glen Park and enjoyed walking to work many days.
"I'm going to miss interacting with the wonderful patrons at this library," Small says. "And seeing children engaged in the stories. When that's happening, I know I'm really going to miss this job. I will also miss going for a walk in this neighborhood and seeing people I know from this job."
Reading to children is something that Small has been doing for longer than her 19 years at the Noe Valley Branch--she has two sons, who are now 24 and 27.
"I'm ready to retire, but I'm not ready to give up kids and books," says Small in her gentle voice, looking out wistfully at the crowd as they run to the table to pick up books, or pack up their strollers and head out the door.
She hopes to be able to find volunteer work at a school, to continue her work with children and books. "I want more free time to indulge my hobbies--reading and singing," says Small, who sings with the San Francisco Sound Wave chorus.
Small's replacement has not been named yet, and she worries that it may be a while before that happens, because of city budget cuts. Still, she is sure the lapsits and story hour will continue at the Noe Valley Library, with different librarians filling in at different times, until a new children's librarian is named. Small will lead the toddler tales and family story time through September (Tuesdays, 10:15 to 11:30 a.m.).
A new librarian better be selected soon, since Noe Valley children are counting on coming in to hear their favorite stories. Small notes there are certain books that Noe Valley kids just can't resist. What are they? The Magic Tree House and Henry and Mudge series, and Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events.
A going-away party for Small will be held at the library, 451 Jersey Street, on Friday, Sept. 25, starting at 6:30 p.m. The library invites all who would like to attend, and asks that people bring food to share. Please RSVP to Noe Valley Branch Manager Alice McCloud at 355-2811.