Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 20
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
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Princeton Library Colleagues Bid Barbara Bradsell a Fond Farewell

Ellen Gilbert

In 1967 the top bestsellers in fiction included Elia Kazan’s The Arrangement; William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner; The Chosen, by Chaim Potok, and Topaz, by Leon Uris. William Manchester’s Death of a President headed the non-fiction list, followed by Misery is a Blind Date, by Johnny Carson; Eric Berne’s Games People Play, and Rod McKeun’s Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows. In another book-related event that year Barbara Bradsell was hired to do clerical work in the circulation department of the Princeton Public Library.

Last Friday Ms. Bradsell, who had since become the Manager of Lending Services, retired. Reflecting on the quantum leaps in technology, not to mention the physical dislocations she’s experienced in the last 41 years, she summed it all up by saying “I’ve loved it.”

Ms. Bradsell, who was trained as an interior designer, began by working full-time in 1967. She switched to part-time for several years when she had children, but returned to full-time in 1978, becoming manager of lending services in 1982. In the intervening years, she has seen a lot of changes in the check-out process, from photographing cards for microfilm, to the library’s first computer system, which was installed in 1989. “It was absolutely fabulous at the time,” she recalled, but now it seems “really primitive.” Today’s circulation system is, of course, state-of-the art, though she muses about how they’ve gone from “the very basic” to the incredibly complex, “all to do the same job.”

“I’ve learned so much,” she commented, noting that some of her favorite times at the library had to do with “shopping,” as she learned about and selected new computer systems. And although the temporary move to the Shopping Center during the building of the new library building several years ago was “wild, hairy, and confusing,” she compared it to camping out and described it as “fun.”

Ms. Bradsell likened working in the library to working in a candy store, with new titles coming in all the time. “I like them when they’re all new, fresh, and clean,” she said. “I want to go through each one. The selectors are amazing.”

Other pleasures include seeing patrons who once came in with their mothers now bringing in their own children. “I’ve met so many people that I see them everywhere,” said Ms. Bradsell, who described running into library patrons everywhere from Venice to the Adirondack Mountains. At a Board of Trustees meeting in November of 2005, Library Director Leslie Burger introduced Ms. Bradsell as “the heart of the library who is in contact with every person who walks into the library. Barbara is an expert in organizing people and tasks.”

Ms. Bradsell is happy about Susan Darkhosh, her replacement as head of lending services, which includes 27 full-time and part-time employees who check books in and out, collect fines, answer phones, and shelve books. “I’m leaving my little group in good hands,” she said.

She is looking forward to spending time with her six grandchildren and to “spending a lot of time” on her hobby, basket-making. She’ll definitely return to visit the library, since she has a lifetime library card. “What more could a girl ask for?” she said.

At five o’clock on Friday library staff gathered on the first floor steps to wave good-bye to Ms. Bradsell. “She was the best boss I ever had,” said circulation desk staffer Barbara Ackerman.

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