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A lifetime with books

A lifetime with books


Gregg McGee's mom met his dad at the library at Camp Beale in California during World War II. She was the librarian there, while he was from Granite City. The story about how they met tells a lot of about McGee's life.

A lifelong resident of Granite City, Gregg McGee recently celebrated 40 years of employment with the Six Mile Regional Library District. He's a well-known fixture at the district's branch at the 2145 Johnson Road, where he is associate branch manager.

At 66, he has no plans to retire. He says he's going to keep going as long as he's useful.  

"People come here for a variety of reasons," McGee said. "Those patrons over the years have become our friends."

One of the people McGee's made friends with over the years is assistant branch manager Janice Noland.

"He's very friendly, very willing to help people," said Noland, who celebrated 40 years with the library last year. "He worked very hard to get the branch started." 

While McGee has spent four decades with the library, this is his second choice for a career.

McGee received a degree in mass communications and radio-TV at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 1972. During that time, he worked four years at the SIUE Broadcasting Service.

McGee said he always had a little regret that he didn't stay in broadcasting. But, he said, "I enjoy working with people. Broadcasting is kind of a rough business. You have to move around a lot."

He took the library post because he needed a job, he said. He didn't mean to stay very long, But he decided he liked it. The pay was good and he was working with people.

"I had done radio work where you would sit in a room for half a day," he said.

So he stayed.

For three years in the 1980s, he worked part-time for Southwestern Cable in Maryville while he was working for the library. During that time, he produced more than 100 half-hour interviews for a program called "Coffee Break with Gregg McGee." One of his interviews was with the conservationist and filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau while he was in St. Louis doing a film on the Mississippi.

At the beginning of his time at the library, McGee worked in the catalog department.  After a while, he was asked to establish a branch library in a former dress shop in the American Village Shopping Center in 1978.

"It could have failed," McGee said. "We were determined that we were going to make a success out of it. We just tried to give the patrons as good a service as possible."

In 1983 the branch moved to four rooms in the Central Christian Church, 2020 Johnson Road. Several years later, the branch moved to its current location. 

Today, the wall of his office is covered with an eclectic mix of posters. There's one of the Mona Lisa and an extra big poster showing the last days of construction of the Gateway Arch and others showing books of his high school buddy, Robert Olen Butler. Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, has signed books at the branch library six times. Butler was valedictorian for Granite City High School's Class of 1963, two years before McGee graduated. 

McGee is one of a number of Granite City alums who keeps in close contact with Butler. "We knew we were going to expect some big things from Bob," McGee said.

Other authors have also signed books at the branch, including Charles Bosworth and Don Weber, authors of "Silent Witness," and "Precious Victims."

Looking back at his 40 years, McGee emphasizes the importance of everyone getting what he or she wants. 

Once, someone came in and asked, "Is this your library?" McGee said. "No," he replied, "This is your library."

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