Books

Forbes Library’s Brian Tabor retiring after nearly half a century in books

NORTHAMPTON — Sstaff, patrons and benefactors of the Forbes Library gathered Tuesday afternoon to commemorate the retirement of longtime head of borrower services Brian Tabor.

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Cardstock decorations strewn on tables in the reading room announced the joys and leisures of retirement — seven-day weekends, goodbye 9-to-5, lazy time — one of them relaying the gist of all the celebratory commotion: “the legend has retired. ”

“Brian knows Forbes Library, Brian loves Forbes Library, and he has dedicated his career to serving its mission and the great people of Northampton. This is a truly rare and special thing,” said libary director Lisa Downing, who arranged a surprise proclamation from Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra to recognize Tabor’s service to the community.

Downing could only recall one other library employee who, after a 60-year career in library work, not all of them at Forbes, had been sent off with a mayoral proclamation — a once-in-a-lifetime thank-you from the city .

“Thank you for a remarkable career here and all the care and love that you have shown Forbes and our community — we are deeply, deeply grateful,” said Sciarra, drawing agreement from the crowd as she proclaimed the city’s “sincerest gratitude to Brian for his time, dedication, stamina and support.”

Tabor, who will clock out for the last time at the end of the month, has worked at the Forbes Library in Northampton for 49 years, which Assistant Director Molly Moss estimates accounts for 38% of the years the library has stood since its founding in 1894.

Moss’ remarks included a number of reflections of gratitude passed along from patrons and co-workers who couldn’t make it to the event. Those who could be present honored Tabor with laudatory words, with gifts — including a book scanner from the Friends of the Forbes Library gifted to the institution on his behalf — with a 60-pound vanilla sheet cake, and even with a participatory song.

Local jazz musician Jeanette Muzima, who met Tabor at the library more than a decade ago, led the gathering of about 60 people in a jaunty acoustic rendition of an original song: “Brian Tabor, He’s Our Guy.”

The afternoon was abuzz with joy, as speaker after speaker, some of them former Forbes employees, themselves retired, took to the podium to honor Tabor’s longevity at the library, his gentility and kind disposition, and his profound knowledge of the building, its history , and the archives it contains.

And in Forbes’ domed foyer, greeting and later saying farewell to a procession of community members, and with a black sash that read “Retired!” draped across one shoulder, stood Tabor, the library legend himself.

Tabor reminisced about storms weathered and mountaintops climbed during his time at Forbes, 18 years of which he spent as the library’s head of circulation, later renamed borrower services.

He described Proposition 2½, the Massachusetts law enacted in 1980 that restricted a city or town’s ability to levy property taxes, as a cumbersome hurdle to surmount, one that “ultimately strengthened us,” he said.

But the job has largely been a source of joy. His favorite book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” the 1852 novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, stuck with him as “not only a marvelous read, but a portrayal of the goodness in people — there’s a sense of overcoming.”

His favorite nook, he notes, is the library’s collection of historical photographs, particularly one of little girls who during the Great Depression would come to play with dolls at the library’s Calvin Coolidge Museum.

His favorite development in the library’s operation is one he wasn’t yet around to see: the opening of the stacks to browsing patrons. During the first decade of the library’s existence, patrons would approach the circulation desk knowing which books they needed.

In the early 20th century, Tabor said, flaunting what speakers unanimously described as his encyclopedic understanding of the Forbes Library, that all changed as patrons were allowed to enter the stacks and select their own titles.

For his part, Tabor said he plans to return anew as a patron and volunteer, assuring attendees that this wouldn’t be the last they see of him.

His motto, he said, is “all is well that ends well. But I will say this — this is not the end, this is not goodbye.”

“You have given me joy today, and I thank you,” he said.

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