Francoise Labonte sits while Lynda Quinn, president of the Bloomfield Trustees, announces the dedication of a new bench in her honor on July 29. Photo by Sheri Leahan

Francoise Labonte has retired after 42 years of service at the Skowhegan Free Public Library.

Library trustees held a reception in her honor July 29 and dedicated a new outdoor bench in her name. The new bench, located on the front lawn under the shade of a tree, will not only provide comfort, but also wi-fi service to patrons for years to come, according to a news release from the Trustees of Bloomfield Academy.

When Labonte was asked what she thought about the bench, she remarked, “I was speechless! Such a nice surprise,” according to a news release from the Trustees of Bloomfield Academy.

Labonte began working at the library in 1977. At first, she worked only a few nights per week when the library was open from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Her good friend at the time, Chrissie Simeone, asked her to work as a substitute so she could have a few days off over the summer months.

Labonte worked as a substitute until 1980, when she became a regular employee. She eventually became assistant librarian.

Francoise Labonte of Skowhegan with card by Josie Pease. Photo by Josie Pease

Labonte credits her love of books and reading to her parents. Growing up in France as an only child, she did not have a television in her home. She and her parents would spend evenings reading books.

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Her father was in the French Army and she spent her childhood years moving, a lot. She remembers she attended four different schools one year. She would spend time in South America, the island of Martinique, and Africa.

She met and married her husband in Morocco. “A friend at the time mentioned to me one day, ‘I have an American friend who speaks French. You should meet him.’” It was her marriage to Roger Labonte that brought her to Skowhegan in 1968. He had ties to Skowhegan, and it is where they decided to settle.

When asked about some of the biggest changes she has seen over 42 years at the library, Francoise commented on the changes in technology. “It used to be in the evenings that teenagers would come to the library to do research. On Saturdays many residents would stop in to read magazines or use the computers. But now, they read everything online.”

What kept Francoise working so long at the library, and what she will miss the most, is the contact with colleagues and friends. “I think it is safe to say that everyone who has stepped foot into this library over the last 42 years has felt lucky to know her, to work with her, or to call her their friend, commented Angie Herrick, library director. “We will miss her.”

The dedication of a new bench in Francoise Labonte’s honor was held July 29 at Skowhegan Free Public Library. From left are Labonte, Bree Bussell-Fitzgerald (adult circulation librarian), Angie Herrick (library director), Josie Pease (assistant director/technology librarian) and Roger Labonte. Photo by Josie Pease

 

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