Between them, Marie Raynes and Arlene Ogurick have worked at the Laurel library for almost half a century.
"I've seen a lot of changes," Raynes said. "Like computers, which have made our job so much easier. We have information at our fingertips!"
Both women are retiring after leaving a lasting impression on their staff and library patrons. They were celebrated by co-workers and friends Tuesday afternoon at the branch's temporary location on Sandy Spring Road. The permanent building is currently under construction and set to open in November.
"All I can say is, they're friends," said Earnest Lester, who has worked as the branch's building and groundskeeper for 12 years. "They're just down-to-earth people."
"What stands out to me with Arlene is that she's such a giving, helpful person," said Martin Seeboth, who has worked at the Laurel branch with both women for more than 10 years. "With Maria, it's her tone and tenor. Everyone's comfortable with her."
Raynes, 65, joined the library's staff in 1980 as a circulation assistant after serving in the Army as a finance specialist. She had been stationed at Fort Meade after a post in Germany and wanted a job that would tide her over until she got a federal government job.
"I've loved libraries since I was child," she said. "They've always been my favorite places to be."
Thirty-five years later, Raynes hasn't left. She was promoted to circulation supervisor at the Laurel branch in 2001.
"The customers are so friendly and nice; the staff is fantastic," she said. "I love finding books for people to read, and the children – when a child gets his or her first library card, it's just a joy."
Ogurick, 70, came to Laurel library as a 13 years ago after working in various positions at libraries in New Carrollton, Baltimore County and Baltimore City, where she lives.
"As a city girl, I was used to a diverse community," she said, "and I found that here."
A librarian, she said she enjoyed the public service aspect of her work.
"I feel really strongly that libraries continue to be community service institutions," she said. "They should be working for folks, supporting them in what they want to do."
Prince George's County Councilwoman Mary Lehman, who represents Laurel, presented proclamations at the library to Raynes and Ogurick on Tuesday recognizing their service to county residents and their dedication to their work. The room responded with applause and cheers.
"No one has the patience you do," a co-worker shouted after Lehman spoke about Ogurick.
"Marie loves decorating," said co-worker Jan Markiewicz. "She'll even decorate her own party!"
Raynes and Ogurick have plans to spend more time with family and with their hobbies, too. For Raynes, that means reading, watching movies and plays and keeping fit.
For Ogurick, that means being Toodles the Clown. She got into clowning after taking a class at the Baltimore Zoo almost four decades ago.
While both women decided to retire because they felt "it was time," they will miss the branch, they said.
"I can't imagine life without eating my lunch and dinner in the car on the way here," Ogurick here.
Latest Laurel Leader
"I've loved my job; I've loved working with you all," said Raynes, breaking into tears, "and I will miss you all."