Children’s librarian Kay Lyons to retire: ‘I found I had a way with children’

  • Greenfield Public Library Children’s Librarian Kay Lyons with some 3D literary figures in a library display. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Greenfield Public Library Children’s Librarian Kay Lyons reacts after receiving a wreath from Federal Street School students in this undated photo. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Greenfield Public Library Children’s Librarian Kay Lyons and her husband, Rick Roy, ride in the Franklin County Fair parade a couple of years ago. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Children’s Librarian Kay Lyons tells stories with the puppet Mrs. Perky Bird during Mother Goose on the Loose at the Greenfield Public Library. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Children’s Librarian Kay Lyons in the Greenfield Public Library’s children’s room last year during the pandemic. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Greenfield Public Library Children’s Librarian Kay Lyons, who will retire in March, performs as Mother Goose. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Over the years, Greenfield Public Library Children’s Librarian Kay Lyons has brought joy to children, introducing them to new characters and books. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • LYONS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/10/2021 3:46:03 PM

GREENFIELD — Librarian Kay Lyons has journeyed with local children for almost three decades to places like Wonderland, Narnia and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but when she retires in March, it’s her turn. She and her husband, Rick Roy, will take some trips of their own, though never forgetting the joy she’s known.

After almost 30 years as Greenfield Public Library’s children’s librarian, Lyons recently announced her retirement to Mayor Roxann Wedegartner.

“I’m going to do the online story hour from now until at least when I retire on March 19,” Lyons said.

A Maine native in her mid-60s, Lyons has a bachelor’s degree in theater, which inspired her work at the Greenfield Public Library.

“I’m an actor first, and that has influenced the way I’ve been a children’s librarian,” Lyons said with a laugh. “I wore a children’s librarian costume by day all these years, but every now and then I put another one on and the kids loved it.”

She has always loved having lots of contact with people and loves performing.

“I found I had a way with children,” she explained. “I eventually had two of my own, and while my first husband and I were in Colorado and he was going to grad school, I raised the kids and stopped doing things professionally for a while.”

Lyons later moved to Amherst, where she was first an assistant to the library director, followed by interim director.

“I did well and that’s how I got the nerve to apply for the position at Greenfield Public Library,” she recalled.

Lyons said she was originally told she didn’t get the job in Greenfield because others who had applied had a master’s degree, but when they turned the job down, Greenfield called her back and offered her the position.

“I said ‘yes,’ and the rest is history,” she said.

The late Joseph Michael “Mike” Franceschi was the library director at the time. He wanted a “dynamic person” in that position, she said, and someone who was good at creating programs, which Lyons had done well.

“I was touched by the interview I did with him and the others who were on the hiring committee,” she said. “I felt it was the place for me.”

Lyons was familiar with Greenfield because she had been back and forth from Amherst to attend events, including the annual Rag Shag Parade. She was hired in November 1993 and started that month.

“It was a professional position and I was hugely grateful,” she said. “I wanted to prove myself by being a good children’s librarian, and Mike gave me a blank canvas and told me to create something.”

Book-themed activities

Lyons started creating programs that were very much theatrical in style, with participation of children and their families a major focus.

“We started doing book parties and those really took off,” she said.

Lyons would plan book-themed activities, and she and other adults — including former Mayor William Martin — would dress up in costumes, as would the children and families who attended.

“The hospital departments would come in and use the library for its Blood and Guts program, which taught health and safety,” she said. “That gave me the idea that we should be using the rooms to bring children to Hogwarts from Harry Potter, for instance. We’d gather in the ‘Great Hall’ and have treats.”

Patrons also participated in building parade floats over the years.

“We built the ‘Magic Tree House’ dragon one year,” Lyons recalled. The Hogwarts float won a blue ribbon. I loved taking things beyond the walls of the library.”

One of the things Lyons is most well known for is Mother Goose on the Loose, which is being offered online instead of in person due to the pandemic. The program was inspired by a workshop she went to in Lowell in the fall of 2006, and the program started in Greenfield in 2007.

“We’ve been doing it ever since and it’s quite popular,” she said.

Another popular program has been the local version of Muggle Quidditch — a game from the Harry Potter series — with children. First it was played on the library lawn and, starting in the summer of 2019, at Hillside Park under the direction of the Greenfield Recreation Department.

“We expect to offer the game in the future when the pandemic restrictions are lifted,” she said.

Fond memories

Lyons said she’s had a lot of fun as children’s librarian over the years. One of the best parts of her job over the past three decades, she said, has been “letting my hair down” and having fun with children.

“Once a little boy came in and with a serious face asked if it was ‘OK’ if he played with our trucks,” she said, referencing the Fire Department’s trucks in the neighboring lot. “He thought we lived in the house and the fire trucks in the back were ours.”

On another occasion, two young children rode their bikes to the library and while they were there, a thunderstorm started.

“I told them I’d call their grandmother to come and get them, and they begged me not to because she didn’t know they were gone,” she said. “We had an accidental crowd during the thunderstorm, so I told scary stories. I always love an opportunity, an excuse to entertain.”

What’s next?

Lyons said she and Roy bought a trailer and Subaru last summer, and intend to travel in retirement.

“There’s been so much heartbreak between then and now,” she said. “I lost my mom and the pandemic hit. We just want to travel and do something fun. We’re being very careful and safe.”

Lyons said she and Roy aren’t “RVers,” but instead like to stay in national parks for a night or two at campsites.

“It’s just us,” she said. “There’s no interaction, though we look forward to the day we can have that again. We want to get to know the country. It’s just another way to enjoy life.”

They will most likely visit Nova Scotia this year — it’s where her father and his family came from originally — and explore Maine.

Lyons said her mother got her interested in genealogy so she will pursue that, too. She loves learning about history, and will continue to do so.

“Rick and I will be volunteering in our community, like we always have,” she added.

She has volunteered at the jail, working with inmates on reading and writing, and in schools. The couple has also been involved in the Greenfield Triathlon and its awards ceremony, and will continue to do so when it is held again.

“I’ve gotten to know so many people,” Lyons said. “I don’t know exactly what the future will bring, but I know that it will have something to do with theater and arts and people.”

When asked if she might consider writing a children’s book, Lyons said, “Writing is near and dear to my heart. We’ll see what happens.”

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.


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