â€śI used to work down there, and over there I sang,â€ť she said. â€śAnd over there is my childhood home, that white building with the steeple roof. Do you see it?â€ť
As she looked around Sylva from the picturesque perch and discusses her career, Brunette was as embracing a personality as she was sentimental and inquisitive about her community. On Dec. 31, after a 27-year career, she will retire as Jackson County Librarian.
â€śIâ€™m very proud of what Iâ€™ve accomplished, but now it is time for me to retire and get some new blood in here,â€ť she said.
On Dec. 11, the library held a celebration for Brunette, a bon voyage of sorts for a lady who has brought much joy and hard work to her profession. Dozens of people from every corner of the community attended with smiles and teary-eyed glances sliding down both sides of the conversation.
â€śThe staff, the patrons here â€” thatâ€™s what I love,â€ť she said. â€śSeeing people with looks on their faces when something really excites them, joyful looks â€” thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m here for.â€ť
A Sylva native, Brunette has had a love of the library as far back as she can remember.
â€śI was a latchkey child. When my mother couldnâ€™t find me â€” and that was no fault of hers â€” she always knew Iâ€™d be at the library sitting on the floor with books,â€ť the 65-year-old said. â€śThe library provided me with security and peace. I tell the kids today itâ€™s the only place you can go anywhere in the Universe just for yourself. It is just that important of a place.â€ť
Brunette eventually majored in geology at Emory University in Atlanta, which coincidentally was home to the first library school in the South. She said she felt somewhat burned out from her geology pursuits and soon found herself working in the Hunter Library at Western Carolina University. After a couple of weeks, something clicked in her head.
â€śMy mother was a librarian and I had been pushed since I was a small child to become a librarian,â€ť she smiled. â€śI knew then this was exactly what I should be doing. So, when I went home and told my mother, she just laughed because she knew it all along.â€ť
After graduating from WCU, Brunette then received her masterâ€™s of library science degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. From there, she started at Hunter Library in 1986 and remained there until she entered the Fontana Regional Library system in 1996. She moved around and through the Macon County branch, onward to Cashiers, then finally back home to Sylva in 2007. At the Jackson County Public Library, she oversaw the long-overdue relocation and construction of the new library at its current location in the historic hilltop courthouse.
â€śWe came up with an excellent use of this space for the library and other community organizations,â€ť she proudly stated.
In an age of information and Internet at your fingertips, many might view the library as obsolete. But not Brunette. Beyond the innumerable community workshops held in the building, the library also hosts a wide array of childrenâ€™s and artistic programs for any and all to attend.
â€śWe offer free Internet and wifi access for everybody, and we teach a lot of computer programs,â€ť she said. â€śSomeone may not be that into reading, but we can offer them something else theyâ€™re interested in, and thatâ€™s what weâ€™ve always aimed to do, to relate to the people. Then, maybe weâ€™ll hook them in to pay attention to books.â€ť
And to that point, Brunette feels the library is as important to Sylva as it was back when she was a child.
â€śItâ€™s the heart of the community,â€ť she said. â€śItâ€™s something open for each and every person in the community. Itâ€™s knowledge at your fingertips. You can find pretty much anything you want.â€ť
Wandering the retirement celebration, people from every direction pulled Brunette aside for a few kind words and best wishes. Standing nearby, acclaimed Appalachian storyteller Gary Carden was grateful for her service to Western North Carolina. He pointed out how Brunette would helped him apply for and receive grants from the North Carolina Humanities Council to produce his plays, not to mention offering the library space to perform the pieces.
â€śShe has an aggressive personality, and she gets things done,â€ť he said. â€śShe and I go way back. Dottie struck a deal with me to allow me to have a place to do my plays, which was in the library. All of those plays were done with her help.â€ť
A few feet away, Ruth Shuler of the Jackson County Genealogical Society shared a laugh with Brunette. The two have worked closely over the years.
â€śSheâ€™s been an integral part of our organization,â€ť Shuler said. â€śDottie is a wonderful person and weâ€™ve thoroughly enjoyed visiting and working with her. We will miss her.â€ť
With her final day at the library quickly approaching, Brunette said she plans to stay active in the community. Sheâ€™s looking forward to cleaning her house and perhaps doing some volunteer work with the local bookstore.
So, what does 27 years in the library system mean to her?
â€śIt means that when I decided to have a career in libraries, I set out to do it and I did it. It was the right choice,â€ť she said.
During the celebration, Brunette felt overwhelmed by all of the love and support.
â€śItâ€™s a little bit mind-boggling, but at the same time, itâ€™s incredibly gratifying,â€ť she said. â€śAnd when I go home today Iâ€™ll bawl my eyes out, if I donâ€™t do it beforehand.â€ť