Home on winter break, a 6-foot-2 college sophomore came by the Northville District Library to say hello to the children’s librarian whose story time he had enjoyed as a toddler. Dorie Freebury, better known as “Miss Dorie” around those parts, could not have been more honored by his visit.
“I’ve been ensconced at the library long enough now to have watched children grow up,” notes the library’s 18-year head of youth services. “I’ve loved every minute of being ‘Miss Dorie’ and look forward to what the next two decades will bring.”
Working with kids all day every day is not for everyone, but it certainly is for Miss Dorie, whose 20 years of professional experience has revealed two important insights about kids.
“First, children are insatiably curious creatures,” she notes. “Second, if kids don’t like to read, they simply haven’t met the right book!”
Freebury acknowledges that the reluctant reader is the children’s librarian’s greatest challenge – and one not taken lightly.
“When confronted with an indignant 3-year-old boy who does not want a book, there’s only one thing to do,” she explains. “You smile benevolently and give him a copy of Chris Gall’s picture book, Dinotrux, and then watch what happens as his eyes widen with delight. You can’t go wrong with a story about raucous dinosaur-truck-hybrid creatures.”
While Freebury fills her days with teaching children about the wonders of the library, books and music, she has learned a thing or two from them as well – perhaps most importantly that the most precious gift a person can give a child is his or her time.
“I always greet kids with genuine enthusiasm, making them feel welcome in the library, giving them my full attention and really listening to them,” she says. “By taking this time, we’re helping a child feel valued. Every interaction provides an opportunity for children to learn something and for us to be enlightened by their youthful wisdom, as well.”
Pressed to name her favorite children’s book – of which she has many – Freebury points to Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius, a picture book.
“This is an extraordinary story with an important message: Follow your dreams, share your gifts and do something to make the world a more beautiful (place),” she says.
Much like Miss Rumphius herself, Freebury is doing just that in her own little corner of the world.
Position: Head of youth services
Place: Northville District Library
Years of experience: 20
Special skill No. 1: Silliness. “I embrace my inner goofiness – especially when leading a rousing rendition of ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ or while wildly dancing to ‘Shake My Sillies Out’ during story time.”
Special skill No. 2: Calm under pressure. “I’ve held a tarantula during an exotic animal presentation without screaming.”
Motto: “When you’ve witnessed a child falling in love with books, all is right with the world.”
What children have taught her: “To be curious, to ask lots of questions, to find joy in simple things and to put stickers on everything!”