John Bucci has served Cranston and its public library system for 31 years.
He didn’t want a big party or a lot of fanfare when his retirement was announced. In fact, if given his choice, no one would have known he had retired at all.
Bucci is a man who loves books. He also enjoys history, travel and figuring out how things work.
He graduated from North Providence High School, did his undergraduate work at Rhode Island College and completed graduate and post-graduate work at University of Rhode Island. He credits his parents with fostering his love of learning.
“They instilled in my family a love of reading. Every Saturday morning we would go to the Mount Pleasant Library. I read the Landmark series and fell in love with history,” he said.
Working at the William Hall Library doing custodial work under the direction of Library Director Jim Giles, Bucci applied for a librarian position at the Oaklawn Branch, where he would receive a salary of $5,000.
“I thought that was an amazing amount of money,” he said.
Bucci worked there under Anne Parent while getting his degree from 1973-76.
From 1976 until 1979, he worked at the William Hall branch as the reference librarian.
“That building was constructed to be like a community center,” he said. “People come in the summer for the air conditioning, in the winter for the heat, but people also come for the sense of community, to know they are not alone.”
Bucci left Rhode Island for several years to work at St. Mary’s College in Maryland and at Simon’s Rock Bard College in the Berkshires. He did eventually come back at the same time Central Library was being scheduled to re-open after its major renovations in the 1980s.
“The sad part about the libraries is when people need us the most, usually during economic downturns, is when we can provide the least services,” said Bucci. “The irony is we provide so many programs to people, but they have no access to them when our hours are getting cut. The tax dollars that are budgeted for libraries is minimal compared to all the services provided by the libraries across the city and state.”
Bucci is proud of all the ways Cranston libraries have stayed in step with the technology advancements.
“The book is not dead. It is never going away. People may access it in other forms, but everyone still needs to know how to read,” he said.
Adrienne Gallo, who is now the branch librarian at William Hall, speaks fondly of her former co-worker.
“I was fortunate enough to be the youth librarian at William Hall for a couple of years and I loved working for John. His enthusiasm and energy was always contagious. Added to the fact that he generally sang songs from obscure rock bands from the ’60s (Mott the Hoople, among others) before we opened meant that it was impossible to have a bad day at the Hall Library,” she said.
Gallo also shared the practical lessons Bucci passed on to her over the years.
“Probably the best lesson John taught me was to treat the library like a for-profit business when it comes to customer service,” she said. “He taught me how to make the physical space inviting and welcoming, as well as the value of conversation with the patrons. Caring about people and treating them like you care about them keeps them coming back.”
Bucci feels providing service is the central purpose of libraries.
“We have the information, whether it is what books have won awards, or how to download some information, where to get help on résumé writing,” he said. “We are a full service institution.”
Bucci said one of the fun facts about the William Hall Library is that the ghost of William Hall rides on the elevator.
“At night, when I am in there alone, the elevator comes up from the first floor all by itself,” he said.
Stefanie Blankship, the youth services coordinator at the Auburn Branch, never worked alongside Bucci directly but still learned from him.
“He keeps filing cards for donations. I was beyond shocked to find that he keeps an organized filing system [not computerized] of donated books,” she said. “I don’t think anyone else in the history of libraries has taken the time to do this. He is beyond organized and something can be learned from his attention to detail.”
Bucci says his favorite part of the job was providing good service to the patrons.
“People would come in and I would be able to help them,” he said. “That is what a good library does, and it keeps them coming back.”
Now with nothing but time in front of him, Bucci has a small list of things to do.
“I volunteer with CCAP. There is quite a long list of books I want to read. Spend some time golfing in Florida, and I think I might go to photography school,” he said.
“With the retirement of John Bucci, it feels like the end of an era. For many, John was the face of the Cranston Public Library and the Edgewood neighborhood. He influenced a generation of librarians and had a great impact on my career personally. I learned a lot from observing his confident leadership and stewardship of the William Hall Library,” said Ed Garcia, library director for Cranston’s libraries.
“John Bucci and the William Hall Library are deeply entwined, and I can’t imagine the place without him,” said Corrie MacDonald, technology coordinator for Cranston’s library system. “There is no piece of machinery in there that he hasn’t fixed, jerry-rigged, or coaxed back into working. No mess he hasn’t cleaned, no walkway he hasn’t shoveled, no light bulb he hasn’t changed … He is tireless, dedicated, cultured, and kind. He has given so much to the Edgewood community, and to the library staff and patrons. Truly a one-of-a-kind guy. He will be sorely missed.”
For complete information on branch hours and programs, visit www.cranstonlibrary.org.