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Monday, October 31, 2005

Bye-Bye Now

Readers love the Fairfax County Public Library so much, sometimes it's hard to get them to leave. To ease the sweet sorrow of parting, staff in many of our branches use musical cues at closing time.

"When you're having a tough time clearing the building, it's hard to improve on bagpipe music," states Kathy Tewell, assistant manager of our Chantilly branch. "I like to use Sousa marches, which are sprightly and get the message across that it really is time to go," says Tina Cunningham, manager of our Fairfax City branch.

The practice of dancing readers out the door at closing time began in 1985. The man responsible for almost 20 years of dear departures is former Centreville Branch Manager Dave Bennett. When he first came up with the idea, Bennett worked at our Tysons-Pimmit branch in Falls Church.

"They used to flick the lights on and off," Bennett explains. But then a new type of lighting was installed that took a long time to power up once turned off. Fortunately, the branch had a public address system. That's when Bennett suggested playing a song over the PA system to signal that closing time was nigh.

"The first song ever used was 'Good Night' from the Beatles 'Double White' album," Bennett recalls.

Since then, staff have enjoyed selecting a little night music to escort visitors out. Faves have included "Homeward Bound" by Simon & Garfunkle; "Let's Go" by Los Lobos, "So Long, Farewell" from "The Sound of Music" soundtrack; "Bye Bye Love," by the Beatles; "Happy Trails to You" by Roy Rogers & Dale Evans; and "I'll Be Seeing You" by Frank Sinatra.

"'Good Night, Sweetheart' always gets people dancing in the stacks," says Pohick Branch Manager Carolyn Koehler.

Occasionally staff use topical exit tunes. When one of the Harry Potter books debuted, our Chantilly branch played excerpts from the Harry Potter soundtrack. "The children froze in awe as they immediately recognized the opening strains," says Branch Manager Bonnie Worcester.

Readers aren't always as accepting of changes in our musical send-offs. Jerilyn Polson, assistant manager at our Centreville branch, reports, "Once when I was out [a staffer] mistakenly put the tape in on the wrong side. The uproar from staff and customers alike was an unmistakable rebuke for changing their beloved routine."

Most of the time, however, library users compliment our departure ditties. Reston Branch Manager Nadia Taran says, "We currently play Mozart, and Mozart fans leave smiling."