The reception to send off longtime South End library staffer, Deborah Madrey into retirement next January brought so many well-wishers to the branch that food ran out within an hour and several tables were needed to hold many gifts. Madrey was quickly overcome by emotions and had to sit down for most of the event in the seating area, where she remained most of the time, surrounded by friends and paper handkerchiefs.
It remains uncertain who will take the place of Madrey, whose pronouncements over the years on the villains of the day --or as she refers to them, the 'you-know-whos'-- and the sports scene (specifically tennis and football) were always sought after by patrons who could not quite make up their minds as quickly on the same subjects. It is also not clear who will from here on out provide biscuits to the dogs who patiently waited outside for their owners to get their library materials checked in or out, or their opinions vetted.
Born and raised in Boston, Madrey attended church across the corner from West Newton and Tremont Streets. After obtaining a degree in Education from Emerson College, she spent 17 years as a public-school teacher in Los Angeles but returned to Boston in 1995 to join the staff at the South End library. She has observed many changes in the neighborhood and treasures the many friends she made at the branch. She is looking forward to retirement, hopes to travel, and would like to see libraries keep books and not go "all digital."
Madrey saw most of the changes when computers arrived and when tapes and DVD’s became a “hot commodity,” so much so that she thinks libraries helped put Blockbuster out of business. And, of course, she notes with some reservation the increasing availability of digital books for Kindles. But the biggest changes have been people's tastes in reading, she says. She recalls how popular V. C. Andrew was back then, especially the novel Petals on the Wind. She has not seen western novels and science fiction in a long while, noting, “Now they watch it more than they read it”. She recalls when urban fiction became very popular, with the work of Terry McMillan, which open the door for other black writers who became well known.
Madrey will be around until early January, and will gladly reminisce with any of her friends who have not yet the chance to say goodbye. Bring the Kleenex, bring the dog. Biscuits are still distributed from the box on the shelf behind the circulation desk..