Every Tuesday morning at the Brownwood Public Library, Jan McLaughlin can be found sitting in the children’s area surrounded by small kids.
They stare up at her transfixed as she leads them through songs like “Rootin’ Tootin’ Texan” and “Three Little Monkeys,” trying their best to follow along with her simple choreography and lyrics. It’s almost as if McLaughlin, who moved to Brownwood to be close to her grandson Durham, ended up with a whole library full of grandchildren.
McLaughlin became the Brownwood children’s librarian in March 2016. She leads story time on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the school year and a consolidated Tuesday session over the summer. Every week she invites a different special guest to read.
“I have had community leaders come to read to the kids,” she said, “and the whole purpose of that is so the kids can see these authority figures as real people. They don’t have to be afraid of them. They can see that they’re approachable, and they can talk to them after the story’s finished.”
McLaughlin also spearheaded the library’s summer reading club, which wrapped up on Thursday with a pizza party at Riverside Park. Kids were encouraged to read a little each day and entered to win prizes.
McLaughlin said it’s important to keep kids reading in our increasingly digital age. “It’s been proven through studies that the earlier you read to your child, the better their vocabulary is,” McLaughlin said. “They can recognize sight words, colors — all sorts of things that they wouldn’t learn otherwise.”
Though McLaughlin has never worked at a library before, she’s no stranger to the public library. McLaughlin was born and raised in Victoria, Texas, the daughter of a DPS trooper and a schoolteacher and the oldest of four siblings. “I pretty much had to be Miss Perfect,” she joked. “Good grades, never speed — I still can’t speed to this day.”
McLaughlin’s love of reading was quickly apparent. “I grew up going to the library,” she said. “I was always a very fast reader, and my mother would let me get more books than my brothers and sister put together. I remember that library being so quiet and so awesome. I’ve always loved the library.”
For college, McLaughlin got a behavioral science degree from Howard Payne University. “That degree has helped me get most of the jobs I’ve had,” McLaughlin said. She spent most of her life moving around West Texas, working for entities like the Texas Workforce Commission and three different mental health facilities.
“I moved around a bit because I was following my children,” she said. And now her children, and grandchild, have brought her back to her college town. She moved back to Brownwood almost eight years ago.
Her favorite thing about being the children’s librarian? “The hugs I get,” she said. “When I’m out in the community, these kids see me and they run to give me a big hug. That’s the best part.”
The library will host an event on August 21 for the solar eclipse, and McLaughlin said she wants to start a Lego club if someone will volunteer to run it. For more information on upcoming library events, visit its Facebook page at Brownwood Public Library or call 325-646-0155.