‘Community beacon’ Julie Cavacco retiring from Tilton Library after 21 years

  • Children’s Librarian Julie Cavacco is retiring after 21 years at Tilton Library in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Children’s Librarian Julie Cavacco is retiring after 21 years at Tilton Library. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Holly Johnson, who now works in circulation, will take over as children’s librarian at Tilton Library in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 1/19/2022 5:47:02 PM
Modified: 1/19/2022 5:45:59 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — When the world slowed down in 2020 following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Julie Cavacco made sure children’s reading skills didn’t.

The longtime Tilton Library children’s librarian reached out to families in the early throes of the pandemic and volunteered her time to bring a socially distanced story time to children stuck at home. On top of the mobile story time, Cavacco was also putting together bundles of books to be sent out to children around Deerfield to make sure their reading skills continued to grow while learning remotely.

“To see kids go from beginning readers to small chapter books,” Cavacco said, “that’s really rewarding.”

Now, Cavacco is going to be slowing down herself — but not too much — as she retires after 21 years of guiding children from picture books to novels. Cavacco’s last day as Tilton Library’s children’s librarian is Jan. 29, and the library is hosting an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day to allow folks to drop by and chat with her.

Although she is retiring Jan. 29, Cavacco will be back in the library the following Monday as she transitions to a substitute and helper role.

“As someone once said,” Cavacco joked, “Julie is retiring, but not leaving the library.”

In a career path that started with a theater degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Cavacco found an interest in the library from working as a substitute teacher in the area’s schools. She said she noticed that children who got into reading often “had a more successful time in the classroom.”

Reflecting on her time, Cavacco said the best part was seeing lifelong relationships blossom among kids in the children’s room, even before those youths would share classrooms together at school. She gestured toward a framed phrase near the entrance of the children’s room, which she says embodies her philosophy as a librarian. The phrase states, “Enter as a stranger, leave as a friend.”

“The most important impact on children is to show in words and deeds that their reading choices matter,” she said. “Their being here matters and they’re valued.”

Cavacco said she’s seen quite a bit of change over the last two decades as she has constantly refreshed the collection. She first highlighted that books are a “lot more fun” these days, with more elaborate illustrations to go with the written descriptions. On a thematic level, Cavacco said she’s seen the publishing community make progress in highlighting the diversity of characters and stories to represent the growing diversity of the United States.

“Publishers are getting a handle on diversity and it’s being built into the fabric of storytelling across the board,” Cavacco said. “We want to show diversity our community might not have as a way to enrich kids.”

There is one caveat to this mission of diversifying the library’s collection, though: “It always has to be a good book,” Cavacco said.

In her newfound free time, Cavacco said she will be focusing on the children’s books she’s written and getting those ready to be published.

“They’re not going to help anyone sitting in my house,” she said.

Beyond that, Cavacco envisions herself getting some reading done, connecting with old friends and maybe cleaning up her house a bit, all while volunteering some time at Tilton Library or other small libraries that may need help.

“I might clean out a couple closets,” she joked, “or five.”

Tilton Library Director Candace Bradbury-Carlin described Cavacco as a “community beacon” who has gone above and beyond what her job requires.

“She portrays librarianship with kindness, community and outreach,” Bradbury-Carlin said. “She’s given everything, this is more than a job to her.”

Holly Johnson, who works with the library’s circulation and technical services, will be taking over the children’s room.

“It feels like a really good passing of the torch,” Bradbury-Carlin said .

For now though, Bradbury-Carlin thanks Cavacco for her years of service to the library and the many more that will be coming,

“It’s not a goodbye, it’s a, ‘We’ll see you around,’” Bradbury-Carlin said. “I think for a lot of people, when they think of the Tilton Library, they think of her.”


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