If you happened to look up into the second floor windows of the Library on a recent Friday evening, you'd have seen figures moving in dim light. You might have seen the figures dancing. You might have seen them hugging. You wouldn't have seen the tears. Or the boots kicked off on the floor and the heels shed. Inside, library staff bid their fond farewells to our departing Executive Director, Leslie Burger.
Tiny white lights wound up and around the building's columns, framing the windows. Lights eagerly purchased several years ago for staff celebrations by Leslie, who was excited to pick out Christmas lights for her extended library family, as this was something she'd never gotten to do for her family at home. To paraphrase Leslie, coming to work kept her alive and gave her something to look forward to, a light and a gift when she needed them most. I'm often in the habit of writing down direct quotes fom Leslie in other times and settings. This family gathering wasn't the place to do that, but I think I have the quote right.
As with any family gathering there were memories shared, reminiscences offered, and stories told. After all, this work-family are the people living those stories. There were people missed. The passing of family has been part of life at the library during the 16 years Leslie has been here. We've lost so many, it's sad to think of each. But this is normal in a family. This night, as we said goodbye to Leslie, many folks were present who were not around to remember those we've lost. Nothing to do but drink a toast, light a candle, and dance on.
In the course of the evening, every individual seems to remember and recount something special which Leslie said to them. Something that kept them going, or gave them direction. We spoke a couple of times about past work-family gatherings. I remember Leslie made a mixtape — actually it was a CD, pre-digital download. Each staff member had a song dedicated to them (mine was "Wild Horses Couldn't Drag Me Away," Mick Jagger's version, not the Flying Burrito Brothers'). She reminded us to be kind, be kind, be kind.
Here's what Leslie wrote to us during the last few minutes she was officially on duty. “Thanks to all of you for your incredible work and your passion for what we do here at the Princeton Public Library every day. I am so fortunate to have worked with all of you, a talented team who believe that libraries make a real difference in everyone's lives. With love and gratitude to all of you, Leslie"
What struck me most as I moved through my work-family on this Friday of farewells and new beginnings? There's a strong, passionate, energetic and functional family of people working at the Princeton Public Library. We live in this ever-changing place, for hours of our lives. What a wonderful world this can be. Thank you, Leslie.
I took this photo thinking about how there are times and places both for those who choose to sit and face the window looking out onto the world, and for those who turn and look around, taking inspiration from where they are.
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