In the eyes of his young fans, “Mr. Gary” is a local rock star‘BabyTime’ FunGuitar-Strumming Librarian Wows Young Music Fans
By Jim Huffstodt
It might be standing room only during the guitar-strumming performances of Gary Crew – if most of his fans were capable of standing up. “Mr. Gary,” as Crew is affectionately known, is the star of “BabyTime” at the LeRoy Collins Leon County Library, where anywhere from 150 to 250 parents and children rock to his stories and music.
The 30-minute program, held in the library’s Program Room A each Tuesday and Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., is wildly popular among an audience ranging from infants to toddling 3-year-olds. Kids and parents enthusiastically embrace the fast-moving blend of storytelling, songs and physical activities.
Crew, 52, a youth-services librarian with Tallahassee’s flagship library for the past six years, has achieved rock-star status among the kiddy crowd.
Some songs are his creations and one, “Frogs In My Pocket,” is a perennial crowd-pleaser. The children move with the beat – or, more accurately, hop, crawl and pretend to fly as Mr. Gary strums his magic.
“Our ‘BabyTime’ kids are such wonderful, unpredictable and creative little ones, with enough energy to light up the whole town,” Crew said. “Often, my biggest difficulty in presenting a program is maintaining my composure when I see and hear some of the wonderfully funny things the kids are doing and saying.”
Crews said he reinvented himself at mid-life. After graduating from Georgia Southern in 1975 with a degree in math education, he spent 20 years as a computer programmer with the Florida Legislative Data Center before opting out at age 43 for a more people-centered profession.
“I enjoyed computer programming, but 20 years in that environment burned me out,” Crew said. “I looked for a second career that would give me more direct involvement with people. Being a children’s librarian has certainly done this. And presenting ‘BabyTime’ let me become friends with lots and lots of wonderful people, both young and old.”
His lifelong love of kids, libraries, children’s literature and song led Crew to Florida State University, where he earned a master’s degree in library science in 2000. His coursework concluded with an internship at the LeRoy Collins Library.
A full-time position opened up at just the right time. From there, Crew soon blossomed into an educational entertainer who, twice a week, charms audiences who see the library as a place to laugh, dance, play and learn.