It's hard to imagine the effervescent Jack Edson every saying "Shhhh!" in the library, but when he started working as a librarian 46 years ago, libraries were quiet places.
Still, he'd give you a lot of leeway: "You had to be screaming your head off before I'd say anything," he admitted.
And he did develop a quiet way of talking in the library.
"There's kind of an art to it, where you can pitch it to the person you're with, rather than the whole wide world," he said.
Edson, who has been director of the Hamburg Public Library since 2005, won't have to worry about using a library voice after he retires Aug. 30. The longest-serving current full-time employee of the Buffalo & Erie County Library system, he's got a childlike wonder that he has been able to work at something he loves for this long.
"It's been a huge part of my life. I don’t turn off at night," he said, likening his career to the American dream, but then he adds that after he retires, "I'll still be reading and getting the office gossip, I hope."
Getting to know Edson is like reading a novel full of animated dialogue and unexpected turns. He's an artist whose work has lined the walls at the Burchfield Penney Art Center as well as the children's corner of the Hamburg library, he has written three books on Hamburg's history, acted in local productions and sings in his church choir.
"There will never be another Jack Edson," said Mary Jean Jakubowski, director of the Buffalo & Erie County Library. "He's a very special person who has charmed all of us."
She particularly likes how he has integrated artwork into the Hamburg library.
Edson oversaw the construction of a $3.6 million addition to the library, which allowed him to expand the artwork in the building, none more stunning than the Charles Clough mural perched over the new room.
"Art has such a tremendous literacy component," Jakubowski said. "Jack's ability to have seen and foreseen that is something I think he should be recognized for."
Edson, 66, first worked in the Central Library during a summer when he was an English major at Canisius College. He got his master's degree in library science from the University of Rhode Island, becoming one of the few male librarians. Last year, nearly 84 percent of librarians were women, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
He returned to the Buffalo and Erie County Library, working in about 10 city branches before landing in 1986 in Hamburg, his hometown.
The first full-length book he remembers reading is the "The Boxcar Children" by Gertrude Chandler. His tastes today go toward Anne Tyler, Richard Russo and Michael Chabon. He read one of his all-time favorite books, "To Kill a Mockingbird," about 20 years ago for the first time, and he loves Toni Morrison's "Beloved," and the works of John Steinbeck.
He's excited to spend more time with his art, quilting and painting, and traveling after he retires.
"One door closes, another door opens. I don't know what it will be, but it's this faith - we all think God has a plan for us. OK, ready for Act 2. What have you got in mind?" he said. "I just think something's going to materialize that I'm needed for."