EPPING — About 60 parents, children and community members staged a rally outside the town's public library Friday to support a well-liked children's librarian who was fired last week after nearly a decade on the job.
Tracie Wilkins, known to most kids as "Miss Tracie," was let go from her part-time position at the Harvey-Mitchell Memorial Library on July 16, but the reasons for the firing haven't been made public.
Michael Vose, chairman of the library's board of trustees, declined to comment on the board's decision to fire Wilkins.
Parents who know Wilkins said they were told she was fired because she had missed too many days of work, but that didn't stop them from showing their support for a librarian they say has made a difference in the lives of many Epping children.
"We think it was unfair. This has a huge impact on the kids in this community and we'd like to see her reinstated," said Deb Deary, a mother of 10- and 7-year-olds and owner of a home daycare who brings the young children to the library each week.
Deary organized the rally, which attracted many parents and children who made signs supporting their favorite children's librarian. Passing motorists honked their horns to show their support as well.
An online petition calling for Wilkins' reinstatement has been launched as well at www.change.org. The petition had 250 signatures by Friday afternoon.
"She's done so much for this community, the library and the children. They love her," said Epping father Chet Clark. "If my kids weren't in a swim lesson they would be here supporting her."
Wilkins was not available for comment Friday.
Many parents said they're worried about how her departure will affect children's programs. Story time has been cancelled through August, but the summer reading program will continue through Aug. 16.
"We don't expect any impact on our programs long term," Vose said.
Kim Bade described Wilkins as a "rock star" to kids in the community.
Bade's daughters have participated in the summer reading program, story time and other events at the library.
"It's really a travesty for the town," she said.Bade's daughters Alexa, 10, and Sophie, 8, said they always enjoyed story time with Wilkins and other activities at the library.
"I'm just shocked. It's not like it was a high-paying job with a lot of benefits. She always went above and beyond. She knocked herself out to help the kids," said Megan McAniff, an Epping mother.
Her daughter Mackenzie, 10, said she liked participating in the "Story Explorers" program after school, playing games and making crafts related to the books that were read at the library.
"She was a lot of fun and was really nice," Mackenzie said.
Mackenzie's twin sisters, 7-year-old Malaney and Maelie, also liked the cooking classes at the library where they made pancakes, pretzels and popsicles.
"We need her back. She's the heart and soul of (the children's library)," said mother Maria Spinelli.
While he wouldn't discuss the circumstances surrounding the firing because he said it was a personnel matter, Vose said he was pleased to see so many people coming out to support the library.
One mother who also commended Wilkins for her work over the years said she chose not to join Friday's rally because she didn't know both sides of the story and the exact reasons for the firing.