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BLOOMINGTON - Books have always been an important part of Phyllis Wallace's life.

They became important to her as a Bloomington grade school student and continue to be important today at age 76.

Wallace, who retired from the Bloomington Public Library in 2003, has spent 55 years impressing the public, and children in particular, with the benefits of reading.

Reading is important because "if you can't read, you can't do much of anything else," she said.

Since her retirement, Wallace has been reading, volunteering at Bloomington's Trinity Lutheran Church and taking part in senior activities through the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department.

"I do miss my (library) staff," she said.

Manager of children's services at the library for about 50 years, she has fond memories of story hours. "Yes, I run into people I had in story hour," she said.

Contrary to the folksy librarian image, however, Wallace said she seldom "shushed" anyone.

"You have to let them enjoy themselves. You want to create an atmosphere of pleasure where these kids want to come back," she said.

Wallace began her long library career at Withers Library on the corner of Washington and East streets in downtown Bloomington. The building was torn down in 1977 and is now Withers Park.

Wallace continued working at the successor library on East Olive Street until she was 73 because "I liked the work. Everyday was a little different."

The Bloomington native graduated from Bloomington High School in 1948 and attended Illinois State University for about a year, exhausting all the library science courses.

During her long years as a librarian, Wallace has noticed changes.

"Mostly it's the technology. Just like everything else," she said.

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