The Librarian

Teen at the Library by Arina Habich via Dollar Photo Club

Teen at the Library by Arina Habich via Dollar Photo Club

Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:40)

The head librarian at Memorial Park Branch Library was the unforgettable Mrs. Conrad Bryson, a stately woman who was my first boss. The slight handicap of her involuntary blinking right eye was a nervous tic, but this genetic quirk never fazed her. It only made her more endearing. I sometimes imagined she was mischievously winking at a humorous situation with one eye while keeping a straight face.

At home among the books I loved to read, my job title was “page,” my main duty shelving the books. I memorized the Dewey Decimal System and today I can walk into a library and find almost any topic without stopping at the computer catalog to look up the number.

I was incredibly shy at 15, often hiding in the stacks to avoid helping at the desk. I didn’t mind checking in the books, unless I had to fine someone. Checking books out was a little scary. We used a camera as big as an office copier, hovering it over the books and user cards to photograph them.

Many times when only the two of us were on duty, Mrs. Bryson suddenly found busy work in her office just when someone was ready to check out an armload of books. I suspect this was her sly way to help me overcome my shyness by forcing me into the spotlight.

One Saturday morning she came in with a sore throat and insisted I read the Story Hour to a growing circle of toddlers gathering in the Children’s Zone. She motioned to me to choose a couple of storybooks. All I could think of was how graciously she always made the dreaded task appear, proclaiming the Story Hour was the highlight of her week.

Self-conscious and red-faced, I complied, quickly grabbing a couple of my favorites that I used to read to my younger sister. I took my place on a little chair in the center of the circle with dozens of expectant eyes on me. Before the end of the first story, to my surprise, I was relaxed and enjoying my growing level of self-confidence. As soon as the Story Hour was over, Mrs. Bryson’s sore throat got much better!

Wouldn’t Mrs. Bryson be surprised to discover that her shy little page was now a writer and editor? Not really. Nor would she take any credit for helping me overcome my shyness. That’s how mentors are. They coax us on stage and then applaud from the wings, to help us grow into the person God created us to become. They joyfully give away a part of themselves to develop a part of us.

What generous mentors the Lord brings into our lives with his unique coordination of people and events. Then he twirls us around and points us to someone struggling. He gives us insight into the fears of others, and a vision of their potential. He quickly follows up one opportunity after another to mentor them. All this at exactly the right time to bring us the most joy!

What mentor called you to face your fears and gave you courage to grow?

© 2015 Nancy HC Ward.
Photo: Teen at the Library by Arina Habich via Dollar Photo Club.



About Author

Nancy Ward loves to share her faith story and help others share theirs through her Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story: Tools, Tips, and Testimonies book, DVD, workshops and retreats. She contributed to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion and blogs at She facilitates the Dallas/Ft Worth Catholic Writers and the Nonfiction Critique Group for the Catholic Writers Guild, where she serves on the board.


  1. I love this! It’s so close to my own experience–I too worked part-time in my small-town library at that age. The librarians had known me since I was 5 and they were definitely mentors for me. Thanks for bringing back those good memories of working with wonderful, patient women who took me under their wings.

    • Thanks, Barb. This was many examples of how to “pay it forward” with many opportunities coming our way all the time to be generous in the pattern of those who gave us so much.

  2. I love this, Nancy. What a wonderful mentor!
    I remember spending hours in my small town library. It was my safe place. The place where I could just go and read and learn. It was like home for me. The librarians were always kind and helpful. This article brought back so many memories. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Colleen. I love the saying that if you do what you love you will never work a day in your life. That’s how I felt with this first “real” job. It could have been a drag, but Mrs. Bryson, God rest her soul, make it an exciting adventure in learning how to manage books and people — and my own emotions about myself.

  3. A great post!;) This made me think of my own mentors over the years, especially the ones who have encouraged me to step outside of my shyness in service and in a ministry of sharing my faith with others. From being a summer camp counselor and youth group volunteer in college, to my current ministry of blogging, radio and a new podcast in the works, it is all because of my mentors, my biggest cheerleaders. I feel a kinship to Moses for sure, because I am very shy at heart, As you described.:)

    • Erin, congrats on your new podcast, another new adventure for us introverts, but at least the audience can’t see us! I’m speaking at Catholic groups now and getting over that first nervous hurdle when I see all eyes on me. God’s grace is enough for me, and you and all the shy at heart.

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