Barbara Vance is retiring from the Round Rock Public Library after almost 23 years of service. Known as “Miss Barbara” to her preschool fans, she has become famous in Round Rock for her storytimes and puppet shows. She’s also known to many as the keeper of the library’s pet snake, Rocksssanne.
When Barbara began her career at the library, she was instrumental in building the library‘s highly successful Summer Reading program, and in recent years, she has taken the lead role in creating the award-winning videos for the summer reading program. She has also written and directed 12 of the Mystery Night plays performed for adults at the library.
When did you join the City?
I started work on April 7, 1986 so I’ve been here almost 23 years. I was born in the Philippines and moved around a bit because my father was in the military. I went to high school in Abilene and went to college at Baylor University.
What made you want to work at the Library?
I taught high school English for 11 years and then went to work for a Library in Angleton. There I wound up working with younger kids and I just loved it. When we moved here I was hoping to find a part time job at a library to work with children when I got the call from Round Rock.
Who do you appreciate most at the City?
The library staff has been like a second family to me. We all look out for each other and care about each other, not just as co-workers, but as family. I have also been very lucky to have two wonderful office mates over the years. We pretty much work 15 feet away from each other, five days a week, all day. We often spend more time with each other than we do with our spouses. Gretchen Pruett is now director at the New Braunsfels library and Theresa Faris is like a daughter to me.
What has been the most significant change that you’ve seen in the City and the Library?
For the City, the biggest change would have to be the growth. I’ve always considered Round Rock my city even though I actually live out in the country. I’ve been proud of the way we’ve handled the growth and made it a strong community.
When I started at the Library, there were about 10 people. Now we have 31 people and a two-story building. In a way, it’s a little sad to lose that small town feel. When I started, we didn’t have cordless phones, cell phones or computers. We were probably among the first departments in the City to have computers. We started with Macs at the library then had to switch over to PCs as we expanded. I can remember when I didn’t understand what the Internet was and I didn’t care. Now, I live with it everyday and can’t imagine being without it. It’s changed the face of the library in a lot of ways. Luckily for me, it can’t replace the children’s programs that I do. There will always be books and hopefully there will always be people when dealing with customer service.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I love doing Storytime and working with the children and the parents. That job has kept me young all these years. I’ve had the best job in the City. I really have. You can’t stay down when kids are so excited to see you. At the library, we have wonderful families who really care about reading and education. I hope I instilled a love of books and reading in children who attended my Storytimes and that it will carry them well through life. The Round Rock Public Library will always hold a special place in my heart.
Do you have any plans for retirement?
For the first time in my life, I have nothing planned. There’s no expected next step. I don’t know what life will bring me. We’ll see. I hope to work with my horse more often, and I need to work on my house and try to find a place for all the stuff from my office. Kids have always brought me a lot of stuffed animals and drawings and things. 🙂
What is most satisfying to you about your career? A woman approached me this week and told me how sad she was I was retiring. She came with her daughter and granddaughter and she said she came as much for herself as her children. I’ve had kids who attended Storytime come and bring their own children. I’ve been invited to weddings of our Storytimers. I’ve had generations come to my programs and parents will tell me I can’t retire until their children are off to school. The parents and kids have been so supportive.
I will miss those kids and I’ll miss our library snake, Miss Rockssssanne. She is an icon among the kids at the Library. I’ll miss the wonderful people I’ve worked with at the Library and the friends I’ve made throughout the City. The City has always been very good to me. It’s given me the opportunity to do things I would never have done otherwise, like the chance to create children’s music videos, write mystery plays, have a pet snake, be on TV and dress up like a pirate, a pumpkin, and numerous other strange things. Round Rock will always be my city in my heart.
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