Mary Jane Bolden joined the Somers Point Library, now part of the Atlantic County Library System, in 1978 as a way to bring in some extra cash for her family. She stayed for 35 years because she fell in love with the place - and it with her.
Bolden retired on July 1, saying the job she held for more than 30 years was anything but work.
"I love the people," Bolden, 69, said. "I've met some really great people, made some great friends over the years."
Bolden, who moved to Somers Point with her husband, Frank, in 1969, took a part-time job at the library when her youngest child, Christopher, reached school age. As a library assistant, she mostly helped out with clerical work, but quickly took on more responsibility, taking point on community activities.
By the time Bolden became de facto branch manager in 1991, when the former city library joined the county library system, she was synonymous with the place for many of its patrons.
Ken Baker, who lives in the Bargaintown section of Egg Harbor Township but who has frequented the Somers Point branch since he moved to the area 15 years ago, said Bolden means a lot to many of those who use the library's services.
"She had become, over the years, kind of a community institution, in a way," Baker said. "She was more than just a librarian, she was, like I said, a community figure and a friend to the patrons."
Bolden took over the library's popular Story Hour and Peanut Butter and Jelly Gang groups in the mid-80s. Story Hour is still going strong - some members are the children of kids Bolden read to decades ago, and although the Peanut Butter and Jelly Gang is no more, Bolden said she often runs into former members.
In addition to her work at the library, Bolden has involved herself in many community activities, serving as a Cub Scout den mother when her kids were young. She is the president of the Somers Point Volunteer Fire Department's Fire Auxiliary.
Bolden was succeeded as branch manager by Janet Marler, formerly of the Egg Harbor Township branch, on July 15. While she has been on the job for only a few days, Marler said it's clear she has some big shoes to fill.
"Kids and their parents are all asking for Miss Mary Jane," Marler said. "They've told me, don't worry, I will be, some day, Miss Mary Jane."
Bolden, said her decision to retire was motivated largely by her desire to spend more time with her family, many of whom live in North Jersey. In August, she'll make a trip to Dutch Wonderland in Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter and grandchildren, the first of many such ventures, she hopes.
Retirement has so far been something of a shock to Bolden, who said she at first struggled with the idea that she didn't have to go to work, but she's starting to come around.
"Before, it was, you get up, eat breakfast, read the paper, go to work," Bolden said. "All of a sudden, I don't have to go to work. But it's getting easier now."
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