Beloved Pelham Bay librarian retires after 27 years

Angela Calderella, children’s librarian at the Pelham Bay branch for 27 years, retired in August. She plans to spend more time reading, of course. Photo by Victor Chu

Legendary storyteller Angela Calderella, children’s librarian at the Pelham Bay Library for 27 years, retired in August. Calderella will miss her friends and colleagues.

“Pelham Bay patrons are pleasant and knowledgeable,” Calderella said. “I recommended books, and the patrons recommended books to me.”

Raised in Country Club and Pelham Bay, Calderella attended Villa Maria Academy and Preston High School. As a child, she read voraciously; Calderella preferred Nancy Drew mystery books. Her father, a great reader of newspapers, used to tell Calderella, “If you can read, you can fix a car or bake a cake. If you can read, you can do anything.”

Calderella fell into a career with the New York Public Library when a high school friend signed her up to work as a page at the Westchester Square branch. While an undergrad at Fordham University, Calderella worked as Hunts Point branch clerk; a senior clerk put her in charge of the children’s room and Calderella blossomed.

“I always thought I was going to become a teacher,” she said. “But I’m a book person. The Hunts Point branch staff was so wonderful. The kids were so sweet. It was fate.”

Calderella went on to earn a Master’s degree in library science at the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University. She signed on as a librarian at the Tremont branch on Washington Avenue, and then at the Westchester Square branch. Calderella also worked at the Baychester branch in Co-op City before landing in Pelham Bay.

Calderella watched children grow up and return to the Pelham Bay branch with their own children. She ran into library patrons in the supermarket and at St. Theresa’s Church on Sunday. Calderella read to students at P.S. 71.

“Pelham Bay is as close to a small town as there is in the Bronx,” she said. “On Halloween, children would knock on my door and shout, “It’s the librarian!” It was nice to work with my neighbors.”

Calderella taught Pelham Bay children how to use the library card catalog, and later how to find books online. She helped with homework assignments, too. The Pelham Bay branch is old enough to boast a fairy tale collection and out-of-print classics, Calderella said.

Still a fan of mystery books, Calderella plans to read a biography of Abraham Lincoln soon. She recently started Peppermint Twisted, author Sammi Carter’s third Candy Shop mystery. Calderella has no desire to read on a Kindle.

“It would be uncomfortable,” she said.

When surrounded by children, Calderella often tells Sleeping Ugly by Jane Yolen. She told the story at her retirement celebration as well.

Stories are better than TV and better than text messaging, said Calderella, who transferred to the Throgg’s Neck branch in 2008. She plans to spend her retirement on walks with her mother, at the gym and in her garden…and she plans to read.

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