Story time Lottie Walker closing book on career

Published 11:51 am Monday, April 4, 2011

For 31 years, Lottie Walker has read to toddlers at library story time and helped students find materials for their science projects, biography research and book reports.

Walker, longtime children’s librarian at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library, is celebrating a milestone birthday Thursday and has announced that she will retire June 30.

“I’ll be 62 years young,” she said with a smile. “It’s just time. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I think the time is right.”

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“It will be hard to fill her shoes,” said library director Deb Mitchell, who has worked with Walker all those years. “She’s very good with young children. She’s also a very good planner, and good at putting things together.”

One of Walker’s duties has been to plan the annual Summer Reading Program, and even though she has been dealing with health issues over the last several months, she has been working on this year’s event since January.

This year’s theme is “One World, Many Stories.”

“My main goal is to encourage children to read throughout the summer,” she said. “We want it to be fun for them. We ask some of them to come and give reports on what they read.”

Walker said reading to the little ones, even infants, is important. “Sometimes pregnant women come,” she said.

On Wednesday, Walker read Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to a group of little ones that included Hayes Loper, 3 1/2, and his brother Whitt, 1, the sons of Vicksburg veterinarian Tony Loper and his wife, Holly. Tony Loper attended Walker’s story time when he was a little boy.

“It always seemed like a big deal to get to go to the library,” Tony Loper said. “They would have events and activities, and Miss Lottie would read the books to us. Everybody just loved going to see Miss Lottie.”

The continuity of sending his own children to the library for Walker’s story time has been “a neat thing,” he added.

Walker, too, said she loves it when those she worked with as children send their own kids or come back to visit with their spouses and children.

“One thing I remember that meant so much to me was a young man who came in with his girlfriend,” Walker said. “He was a college student, and he was walking around, showing her the children’s department and telling her about things we did when he was young. He was so excited, saying, ‘Remember, Miss Lottie, when we did this or that? We had so much fun,’ he told me.”

Walker, a Vicksburg native, grew up with five brothers in a house on Vine Street in a neighborhood behind the former site of the Blackburn car dealership. She attended the old Bowman Elementary School and after graduating from Rosa A. Temple High School, earned a degree in elementary education from Alcorn State University in 1973.

Walker substitute taught in elementary and junior high schools and team-taught third grade in Durant in the 1970s before coming back to Vicksburg to raise her son, Percy.

When Percy was little, she volunteered at the old library on Monroe Street. One day she got a call from the library director that there was a position open. She won the job and has been there ever since.

Alice Rabalais, who has volunteered with Walker in the children’s department for 10 years said Walker loves and spoils the kids.

“She is very patient with them,” Rabalais said. “They come in after school and she helps them with their science projects and other school assignments.”

The kids are often dragging their feet and have procrastinated, said Walker, but by the time the science fair is over, they come back in to tell her how they did or show off a ribbon they won. “After that, it’s worth it, to see those smiles on their faces,” she said.

“I can’t say enough good things about Lottie,” said Mitchell. “She is just a real special person.”

Mitchell said the library will first advertise in-house for her replacement, then if necessary open it up to the public. “We hope to have someone in place to be able to work with Lottie before she leaves,” Mitchell said.

A reception will also be planned for her as her retirement day gets closer.

“A lot of people will want the opportunity to tell her goodbye,” Mitchell said. “She will be missed by the staff and by the public, but I’m happy for her. She’s earned it.”

“It’s just so fast,” Walker said of the 31 years. “You really don’t think about it until someone comes in and says, ‘I remember you from when I was little.’ And then it hits you that all this time has gone by.”