“People always tell you to never take the first job you interview for out of college,” Samantha Tai, the Children’s Outreach librarian said, “but taking this job was the best decision I have ever made.”
After 21 years of serving the Vineland Public Library, Children’s Outreach Librarian, Samantha Tai, is leaving the branch to get married and move to Maryland with her fiancé. The library will be hosting a going-away party for Samantha in the Community Event Room on Tuesday, May 17, from 6 to 7 p.m. She will read some of her favorite stories and the community will have the opportunity to wish her farewell. All are welcome including friends, family, and patrons at the library. There will be a story time, a craft, and, according to Tai, probably some tears!
“All of us at the library are so happy for her,” Helen Margiotti, head of Children’s and Young Adult Services, said, “but it is a bittersweet type of happiness. She’s been here for over 20 years and the library is certainly losing something special by her moving away.”
Tai began her career as a librarian when she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from Trenton State College and a master’s in library science from Rutgers University.
“Even after graduating with my librarian degree, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do,” Tai said.
She applied to a reference librarian position at the Vineland Library, but by the time she applied, the position had been filled. Nevertheless, Margiotti called Tai to inform her that the library still had an opening in their children’s department and asked if she’d like to apply.
“When interviewing Samantha, what struck me the most was her enthusiasm,” Margiotti said. “She has a child-like wonder about her and the kids love it.”
Tai had experience working with children before coming to the Vineland Library but was not sure if she wanted to pursue a career with children. It wasn’t until her experience in Vineland that she realized this was her calling. “This is what I was made to do,” she said, “I am a children’s librarian.”
Over the past 21 years the community has been touched by Tai’s passion for the children’s outreach program. Tai spearheaded many events such as Baby Time, book discussions, American Girl parties and countless others.
Among these wonderful programs, her favorites always consisted of working with the youngest children. Tai reads at the library’s preschool/baby toddler story times, three Wednesdays and three Thursdays of every month from 10 to 10:30 a.m.
“There are parents I know that came here as children that now bring their children,” Tai says. “It makes me so happy that this is something these parents enjoyed so much that they now want to share it with their kids.”
One such parent, Rebecca Pedersen, has been attending story time with her now seven-year-old son since he was six months old. “Samantha always did so well with him,” she says. “Going to the library was something my family did when I was little, and I knew I wanted to do it with my kids too.”
“She has the perfect reading voice,” another parent of two, Nicole Corson says. “When she’s reading, the kids are just captivated by her. She’s so kind, funny and engaging. My sons have always enjoyed going!”
Not only did Tai enjoy working with the younger children, but she also fondly recounts her time with the Vineland public school sixth graders. Every year, Tai would go into the sixth-grade classrooms with a list of her favorite books and some urban legends to pique their interest.
“After visiting the sixth graders, I would later see some of them come into the library and ask for the books that I recommended,” Tai says. “Being able to help a reluctant reader find the book that helps them love reading is something I’ve always enjoyed.”
Finding that special book is a gift of Tai’s, explains Margiotti. “I have often watched in awe as parents walk up to Samantha saying their child doesn’t like to read and she immediately finds something perfect for them.”
“As we always say” Margiotti chuckles, “if there’s a child who doesn’t like to read, it’s because they haven’t found the right book yet, and Samantha will always find the right book.”
As her time at the Vineland Public Library comes to a close, many wish her well, though their well wishes come with bittersweet pangs.
“I wish her nothing but the utmost happiness,” Corson says, “but I will miss her book recommendations and seeing her friendly face every day.”
Pedersen adds, “Samantha watched my son grow and knew exactly what he needed. I’m going to miss her. She became more than just a librarian; she became a friend.”
As bittersweet as this goodbye is for the community, it is equally sad for Tai. With a wedding on the horizon, she has many things she is looking forward to, but stresses how much she will miss the coworkers, friends and children who became family.
“I’m not originally from Vineland,” she says, “but this place became my home. Thank you all for a wonderful 21 years.”
To register for “Goodbye, Miss Samantha Party,” call the Children’s Department at 856-794-4244 ext. 4246, or fill out the registration form at https://forms.gle/tT7AXcc97RFmbEoz5.