BETHEL — Librarian Michelle Conroy is retiring this month after a decadeslong career that started when she was 20 years old and ends after 27 years at the Bethel Library.

Bethel librarian Michelle Conroy will retire Jan. 21. Submitted photo

After her first job at Arizona State University 45 years ago, she worked at other university and law libraries before coming to the town library on Broad Street.

Her observation after all that time: “People like to read!”

Their choices in material, she said, vary by age, interest, purpose and whether they prefer reading from the written page or from a screen.

“As long as they’re reading, that’s all that matters,” Conroy said.

“I think older people will always read hardcover books and they’ll go to the library and they’ll read fiction,” she said. “I think if people like nonfiction, they’ll go online and read e-books, but they’ll still have to access through the library.”


The classics, such as “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, will also be read, she said.

The library has a set of the original Nancy Drew books, a series of female detective stories first published in 1930.

“Every year we have one kid who will go through all of them,” Conroy said.

Another of her observations is nonfiction titles are becoming obsolete because information and research is updating so quickly online.

Asked about her favorite titles, she said she couldn’t pick just one but one of her favorite authors is Michael Pollan.

“He writes a lot about food,” she said. One of his books opens where “he’s driving in the car with his child and he goes to the drive-through at McDonald’s and explains where the food comes from. He ends up making his own meal, getting the salt from the ocean, hunting a deer, and picking his own mushrooms. It’s really interesting how he goes through the science of food.”

Conroy’s last day behind the desk is Jan. 21 ending decades of serving residents Bethel, Greenwood, Gilead, Newry and Albany Township, students in Maine School Administrative District 44 and visitors.

The nonprofit Bethel Library Association was founded in 1879 and is funded by endowments, annual fund drives, quilt raffles, plant and book sales, and taxpayer support from Bethel, Newry, Gilead and Greenwood.

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