The staff of the Eagle Valley Library District lost a remarkable colleague and friend earlier this month when Lorraine Mall Haslee passed away.
Lorraine began her library career as librarian of the Minturn Branch of the Eagle County Library. She later transferred to the Mid-Valley Branch, which was a combined school and public library, the first of its kind in the state.
The library was housed at Battle Mountain High School. During the day she assisted high school students with homework questions and introduced young children to reading during her preschool story times. After school and during the summer she was often the sole librarian.
When area population and requests for more library services grew, Lorraine became the manager at the new Avon Library housed in the City Market building. When the county libraries became the Eagle Valley Library District, Lorraine was manager of the Avon Library on Benchmark Road.
Lorraine worked for the county libraries and library district for 19 years before she became the librarian at Vail Mountain School. Many of us had the privilege of working with Lorraine during those years. She was an excellent manager, well-organized and proactive. Her real strength was working with youngsters from preschoolers to young adults. She connected with them all on a personal level. Her sensitivity, intelligence and especially her sense of humor made her a powerful children's advocate.
Melanie Wilson, one of Lorraine's fellow employees, said, "Lorraine had a very special way with kids. When they would come into the library, she would lower her voice to a whisper and they would follow her lead. Her family was very dedicated to the Buddy Werner ski program. Our family grew up in the program along with the Haslees."
The lasting effect of Lorraine's sense of humor is evident in Michelle Hall's memory: "If anyone wonders where my nickname Shellybelly came from, it's the nickname Lorraine gave me when I was pregnant and it has stuck ever since."
In my memories of Lorraine, she was always smiling and exuded a sense of fun. Her choice of wild earrings often manifested her sense of fun with flair and exuberance. My enduring memory of Lorraine is one where she was talking to a rambunctious preschooler. She knelt down so she was on eye level with him. At first he was apprehensive, but as Lorraine talked with him he visibly relaxed and started to smile. He turned to walk away with a grin and bounce in his step. I could see he had been touched by Lorraine's magic.
All of us who knew Lorraine have been touched by her dedication, intelligence, humor, charity and spirit. In short, we were blessed to be touched by Lorraine's magic.