BILLINGS — A familiar face for over two decades at the Billings Public Library, Cindy Patterson, a children's librarian, is turning the page to start a new chapter in her life.
"I actually knew in kindergarten. Can you believe that?" Patterson said of when she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.
"I was born and raised in Great Falls and then I went to Longfellow Elementary School, and there was a librarian there named Grace Anderson, and the first book I ever checked out was The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss, and I read it over and over and over and knew that books were magical," Patterson said.
A fixture at the Billings Public Library, Patterson has shared that magic with generations of readers.
"I am retiring. I am the longest-running children's librarian at Billings Public Libary, been here 26 years," Patterson said.
She's an advocate for reading activities of any kind, but a special spot in her heart is held by story time. Story time is held in the story tower designed specifically for Billings Public Library. Story time involves fun characters, voices, and is followed by a craft activity.
"I estimate that I've done over 4,000 story times, a 36-year career," Patterson said.
Over the years, she has watched the world of reading change around her,
"So I'm old and retiring, I was a librarian in the days of this thing called the card catalog, and then we automated. But it's also been exciting to see the evolution of E-Books, and databases," Patterson said.
One thing will never change.
"Being read to is the single most important thing you can do for your child, starting before they're born. Read to your baby bump, read when they're newborn, read when they're six months old; read, read, read," Patterson said.
"Reading to them when they're young absolutely changes how they perceive school. Reading opens up so many avenues," Patterson said. "When you read, you're building all sorts of connections that work in all aspects of life."
Patterson led a career of teaching the joy of reading, participating in literacy groups, even inspiring future librarians.
"You could not work in a better place. If I had to describe my career in one word, it would be blessed. The old library was amazing because it was full of books, and the new library is amazing because it's new and it's bright and it's modern. It's really easy to come back to work every day when you have a blessed career," Patterson said.
For Patterson, reading brought a lifelong career and countless smiles to the generations who met her.
"Reading opens up a whole new world," Patterson said.
She looks forward to traveling with her husband and spending time with her children and grand-children.
If perhaps Patterson read to you, or your children, there will be an open house Sept. 6, from 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. in the Community Room at the Billings Public Library.