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Melissa Albin with friends. |Submitted photo.

Melissa Albin: More than a librarian

Children felt special when they were with Durham’s Melissa Albin, long-time Head of Children’s Services at the Durham Public Library. She welcomed them to their library, encouraged them to read and also to create, dress up, sing, dance, share, and make friends. She would bring penguin stickers back from a conference in the Midwest, because a little girl in Durham liked penguins — and then bring a book too because that little girl had a sister.

Parents, as well, felt welcome in Melissa’s area of the library — tired parents, exasperated parents, even Dads.

An entire community followed Melissa’s fight against cancer, and an entire community mourned when she passed away Sept. 5, at the age of 42. The following is a sampling of the tributes sent to the Town Times.

—Mark Dionne

Eleven years ago when I moved to Durham, Melissa became my first friend and the best welcome wagon a town could hope for. Melissa took the cliché of the quiet, introverted librarian and turned it on its head. She was vivacious, funny, sweet, compassionate and smart. The Durham Library quickly became my favorite place and an excuse to see Melissa and gab about our lives.

I will miss her every day until I see her again. We love you, Melissa.

— Claudia O’Connell

Melissa made fun times more fun and sad times less sad. She made things better and if something couldn’t be made better, she made me feel better about it anyway. Melissa was an incredibly giving person. You couldn’t know her without knowing this. In the months preceding her move, she went through bags and bags of outgrown clothes, item by item, dividing them up and delivering them to people who could use them. At one point, I suggested she just throw all of these unused and outgrown clothes into garbage bags and bring them all to Goodwill. After all, she had so much to do to prepare for the move. Nope, not Melissa. She continued going through each item, piece by piece. This pair of overalls would be a perfect fit for the sibling of a child she had in Story Time three years earlier. That dress would be perfect for a little girl across town who had eyes to match. After weeks of this with no end in sight and moving day fast approaching, I again suggested she just bring it all to Goodwill and be done. Melissa’s response? “Oh, it’ll be fine. I’ll just take it all to the new house and go through it there.”

Melissa and I loved taking walks together ... I will continue to walk these roads and I will imagine that Melissa is somehow with me in spirit. I will tell her my stories and I will ache for hers. It is not the same but I think she would want me to just keep walking and so I will.

— Jody Benbow

I am so grateful that she was one of my children’s first teachers. And, what a teacher she was. She made reading fun which was evident when she held a “Pinkalicious” event and turned up at the library with a pink face! The last chapter of her book may have ended, but it will forever live on in our memories and especially in our hearts.

—Nina Healy

Melissa’s smile brightened up my day and made it sunny when it was raining.

— Carly Benbow, age 8

She always made each child feel so special and in return they loved her. Everyone in town knew who she was and especially the children. I would always call her Durham’s very own “ local celebrity” and she would laugh. She was one of the greatest mothers I have ever known as well as friend, wife, daughter, sister and aunt. She will be truly missed and I feel blessed to have known her.

— Gina Turner

I recall countless hours of learning and fun times that she instilled in my children, and all the children that she lead through Story Time. Jesus said, let all the children come to me. Melissa was like that too, all the children flocked to her and she adored them and they adored her.

— Evelyn Kearns

One day I got a message that the book I reserved was ready. I thought it was a mistake because I did not recall reserving a book. When I went to ask about it, I found out Melissa had put a new book about horses on reserve for my horse-loving daughter. Melissa knew exactly what my girls liked to read. It was always a fun surprise to see what book was waiting for us next.

— Melanie Gargamelli

We spent the rest of our friendship idly bantering back and forth about how I hated the library, the smell of old books and the thought of how many people had touched them and how much she embraced all of those things. Melissa said she felt a history in every book she opened; a history of who had held it and who they had read to. (It should be noted here that the library is a wonderful place, and I am simply a complete germaphobe.)

I spent the next few years trying to set her up with my brother-in-law. This was a doomed attempt ... Missy ended up marrying a wonderful man we affectionately referred to as her “veterinarian lover”, Mark. They wed on the fourth of July. The weather was beautiful, the atmosphere full of fun, and the venue kid-friendly. What I remember most about that day, however, was this glow, this sincere passion in Missy’s eyes when she looked at Mark. I was in the presence of true love.

[...] When my mom was moved to Masonic in January I found myself spending more and more time with her. I was guilt ridden that I couldn’t help Missy more. What did she do? She consoled me and told me to stay by my mom’s side and she would be there if I need her. If I needed her? Missy was my angel ... I know Missy had hundreds of friends but the amazing thing about her was that she made each one of us feel as though we were her only one.

—Deborah Sokol

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