A salute to Bob McCall, Saluda librarian extraordinaire

Published 10:22 am Friday, August 4, 2023

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Slowing down is not a function of speed. It is a function of awareness, and I don’t want to make awareness a mental construct. It’s a function of presence.

~ Bayo Akomolafe


One thing that has remained consistent throughout my life is a love of books, along with libraries and librarians. I have fond memories of Saturday trips to the town library in my dad’s double-cab VW truck, windows down, him smoking a pipe–piles of books on the blue leather seat to return. 

As a small kid, I loved walking into the peaceful cool comfort of that library. The librarians at the front desk were ready to steer me to a magic world they loved too; they opened doors in many ways. At school, regal Mrs. Hasty, always dressed in a suit and comfortable pumps, would patiently check each child out at her desk, making sure we filled out the back card properly.  

It’s a whole new world in libraries during these digital times. Librarians carry a bigger workload than ever. They have to be tech-savvy with computers/internet/phones, systems, cameras and media–everything. All this, on top of being mediators, problem-solvers and handymen, teachers, therapists, tour guides, babysitters, walking dictionaries, safety-conscious—the whole nine yards, plus.

Did I mention weight-lifters (crates of books are heavy!), and handle helping to install or direct exhibits? 

Some are known to clean the bathroom, make coffee or tea for visitors, or clean up after children’s hour. Bless them all, those librarians who are not famous athletes making millions of dollars. You never hear about wealthy librarians or teachers, come to think of it–they’re in it for the love of what they do.

Yet in an ever-expanding picture, they are the heart of a place held dear to many of us. Here in Saluda, we were without a town library for years, until Melody Gibson along with a core group of hard workers got the ball rolling. Fundraising, the gift of a historical building and a community made it happen. 

Today, our library is one of Saluda’s special jewels, a treasure. For almost 18 years, as of this coming November, we’ve had another treasure as our head librarian: Bob McCall. 

He came here with librarian wife (it runs in the family!) Sandy (who works at Lanier Library), and young son Caelum. Over time, they rented here and there in Saluda until buying a vintage home down the mountain; Bob is a familiar sight walking to the post office to pick up library mail or along Main Street to pick up lunch. Caelum’s now 24, living up in Hillsborough, and Bob is having his retirement party today. It’s an early retirement; so he’s got a smile on his face and a “Honey Do” list from Sandy. 

It’s time to enjoy slower mornings, gardens, long rambling hikes and trips up toward Raleigh to visit Caelum. For years, there Bob was, helping us figure out ‘how to’, patiently steering folks, always friendly to lost tourists. He’s shown up through winter, rain, early mornings and long days., and is always generous with sharing garden veggies or treats. 

To many of us, he became a dear friend—someone honorable and kind—and a good person indeed. A person you could always count on. Saluda Library is a special place because of Bob, his assistants and volunteers and those who continue to make public libraries a welcoming place for all: little ones, teenagers, the whole gamut up to codgers and passersby. 

A few weeks ago, when Bob told me his news, I was both sorry (for myself!) and thrilled knowing he’s choosing a bit slower pace, yet will still be close by. He’ll be around working another week or so during the transition period, but promises we’ll all like the next librarian–yet to be announced. We’ve been lucky as a community to have someone who’s been steady, a friend, and is the epitome of small-town friendliness. This town has been truly blessed to have him.

We all need a Bob–and he’s leaving us a good feel in that library, along with good memories and a hope that more people can be like Bob. Thank you, Bob McCall, for being the best librarian we’ve ever had. Now, get busy with that “Honey Do” list—but at a slower pace! 

Happy August Birthday to B.J. Kent, Paul Stoney, Jen Pace, Zack Pace, Don Mintz, Caroline Tindal, Nora Ward, Samantha Ward, Reeda Ward, Natalie Aabye, Verlie Murphy, Peter Eisenbrown, Coleman Bradley, Ryan Bradley, Libby Archer, Rodney Thompson, Cathy Jackson, Bill Jameson, Tayloe Francisco, Troy McAfee, Patricia Carmichael, Syman Thomas, Jade Burdett, Ron Bennett and Rob Schloss.

Bob receives a special retirement gift presented by Polk County Libraries. Pictured left to right are Rita Owens, Paul Rhodes, Joseph Burdett and Bob McCall.


Feel free to contact me at bbardos@gmail.com, (828) 817-6765, P.O. Box 331, Saluda, NC 28773, Facebook, or visit bonniebardos.com