Toms River Regional Schools Hall of Fame

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Bessie N. McLean

  • "Honored for a lifetime of inspiring in students the love of books."
  • "Treasured friendships make lasting memories."
In September 1930, a twenty-one year old graduate of the Connecticut College for Women arrived in the Toms River School District to begin her responsibilities as the district's K-12 Librarian. Little did she know, or did the district realize, that this would be the beginning of a 45 year tenure and association with the Toms River Regional Schools that would culminate with her retirement in June of 1975. Throughout her long and honored association with the Toms River Schools, Bessie McLean demonstrated a deep seated commitment to the support and essential component of libraries and media centers as an educational resource for the district students. Her long and honored contribution to the district in this regard is well documented by her accomplishments over her 45 year tenure.

In 1926, Bessie graduated from Danbury, Connecticut High School, after which she attended the University of Connecticut for the 1926-1927 academic year and then transferred to the Connecticut College of Women from which she graduated in 1930 with a major in mathematics and a minor in education. Subsequently, she studied at the School of Library Science at Columbia University from which she received her Master's in Library Science in 1940.

Although many observations can be made about Ms. McLean's contributions to the Toms River Regional School District, probably none is more perceptive or on the mark than the following observation by former Toms River High School Principal, Nathaniel Detwiler, on March 18, 1959:

"In Ms. Mclean we have a person who spends many, many hours above the call of duty, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, in order to keep abreast of her very busy schedule in her library. Visitors to the Toms River Schools are amazed when they discover the large number of average daily withdrawals from our high school library. This fine condition exists because Ms. McLean spends time in acquainting pupils with the fine offering in our library."

Such a degree of commitment and concern for the growth and developmental support of the Toms River students typified Bessie's long and honored association with the school district. She was the originator of the concept of a Library Club whereby students would assist in library related activities. In addition, she sponsored and encouraged annual library trips to New York City in early Mayas a culminating activity, and as a token of appreciation, for the Library Club volunteers' efforts. She was in many respects, a strong disciplinarian who felt the library should be a place to come not to socialize but, to investigate, to inquire, and to do that research necessary to support students' studies. Her library was typified by her close supervision and her attention to detail, and the recognition that what students should pursue in a library should be steeped in a "no nonsense approach."

Many nouns and adjectives come to mind when one reflects upon the qualities of Bessie McLean, both on a personal and professional level. However, probably no term is more representative of her than the term "lady." Although Andy Rooney, commentator for Sixty Minutes on Sunday evening, feels the term lady has largely gone out of style, certainly it must be said that Bessie McLean qualifies as the first lady of the Toms River Schools libraries/media centers. Bessie approached her responsibilities with a deep seated commitment to be thorough and careful in all of her pursuits, and she brought to them the same high degree of ethics and values that typified both her personal and her professional life. While she and her friend Eleanor Bryant continue to enjoy a most productive and busy retirement at Harrogate, the Toms River Regional Schools would like to go on record as acknowledging her for the extraordinary professional that she is and for all the contributions she made over the years to the development and support of library related science skills in Toms River Schools. In fact, it would be hard to conceive what type of growth opportunities and research skills our students would have developed had Ms. McLean not been so readily available and so much "on top of things" with respect to these techniques and investigatory skills.

In addition, Ms. McLean contributed to our community as a charter member of the AAUW-Toms River Branch, co-founder of Librarians of Ocean County, a trustee of the Ocean County Historical Society for twenty years, librarian for Christ Church for 35 years, and a volunteer at Community Medical Center for twenty years. She was grand marshall in the parade celebrating the Toms River Schools Centennial and was the 1991 Honoree of the Student Loan Fund. We honor Ms. McLean for epitomizing the spirit and philosophy of the Toms River Schools.

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