Chris Appel and 2-year-old daughter Riley Appel came to listen to Karen Armor’s story time for the first time May 16, not realizing that it will be one of the last for the veteran librarian.
“It’s great, perfect,” Appel says of the story time experience. “She (Riley) loves it.”
There were more than 20 mothers, fathers and children at the story time Wednesday morning. All watched Armor work her magic, turning each page and looking at each child as if they were the only one in the room.
Kim Bourne and her daughters Lily, 5, Maya, 3, and Rowen, 5 months, have been coming to Armor’s story time for more than a year now.
“She’s great,” Bourne says. “ She really picks a theme that the kids can relate to and she does a really good job handling the room. She knows when the kids are done with a book.”
Bourne says she brings her daughters to expose them to books and the library.
“They really like coming here,” she says. “They like to pick up books and on our way here, guess what the theme will be.”
After 35 years as a librarian, 19 of which were spent in Campbell, Armor has decided to retire.
“I feel fine about it,” Armor says. “You could either bemoan it or see it as an opportunity to do something new.”
A Love for Reading
Armor began her career with the Santa Clara County Library system in 1976, and has worked at every location, including the bookmobile and administrative offices except for Los Altos and Saratoga, but even before that, she always wanted to pursue a career that would allow her to enjoy what she loved most: reading.
"I was always a voracious reader as a kid," she says.
Armor grew up in Alturas, Calif., a small town with a population of about 2,000 residents.
"It was my escape mechanism," she says. "I could go anyplace, anywhere, anytime."
The local library was located between Armor's home and school, so she stopped by to pick up reading material on her way home.
When deciding what she would do with herself, Armor initially thought of becoming a teacher, since she came from a family of teachers.
But it was her brother that made the first suggestion to become a librarian.
"My brother said to me, 'When you're reading, you won't get in trouble,'" she says with a smile.
As she put it, she went to "library school" and was hooked.
"Being a librarian is another avenue of learning and exposing kids to books in a similar atmosphere," she says. "It's something I discovered I was very good at."
Coming to Campbell
Armor came to Campbell in 1993 and says the library in the Orchard City is very much a small-town library.
"It's very community-oriented," she says. "People here see it as their library. It's big enough that it has what you need but not so big that it's overwhelming or not part of the community."
Armor began doing story time in 1980 and never stopped.
"I like interacting with the kids and watching them grow," she says.
She says a mother saw her the other day and told her that her now-24-year-old daughter had seen Armor at the .
"She said her daughter had turned to her and said, 'Mom, she used to read stories to me,'" Armor says.
A boy that learned to use computers at the library is now a sophomore at Santa Clara University, she says, and he still drops by to say hello.
"It's the nice thing about Campbell," she says. "People don't go away. We have a chance to see them grow up."
For now, Armor says she doesn't have any solid plans for retirement but she has put together a list of things that she wants to do, things that she wants to relearn.
As for what she will walk away with after 35 years?
"I've had a positive influence on so many kids," she says with a grin. "I see them come in and they're excited to read. I was a part of an excellent library system."
Armor's last story times will be May 23 and 30 at 10:30 a.m.