PLANT CITY — For three years, Mary Hoover tried her hand as a traveling poker dealer — going from casino to casino to work at championship tournaments.
But life on the road wasn’t what she wanted, and she decided to go back to her original passion: working as a librarian.
Hoover said her new job at Bruton Memorial Library is like a dream come true.
“I’m really happy to be here and it feels like where I was meant to be,” said Hoover, who was named new children’s librarian last month.
Hoover said she and her husband were traveling 42 weeks a year when they decided to settle in Plant City, where they have four grandchildren.
“We were missing everything about the babies and I didn’t like that,” she said.
Hoover received her bachelor’s degree from the College of William & Mary and her master’s in library science at Syracuse University. She taught for five years starting in 1994 at an elementary school in her hometown, Gloucester, Va., before becoming the school’s librarian.
The Hoovers were high school sweethearts who reconnected after 25 years apart via Facebook and married in 2011. They have five adult children between them.
Bill was working as a traveling poker dealer when they wed, so she joined him on the road. Dealers in that line of work travel from city to city to deal cards at casinos hosting major poker tournaments.
But during a spring trip to New Orleans they mutually decided it was time to stop their nomadic lifestyle.
She spotted the job opening at Bruton Memorial on the city government’s website.
“I really wanted to get back into the library. I missed it so much,” she said.
Library Director Anne Haywood said she was an easy choice because of her experience and her enthusiasm. She’s already a popular member of the staff, she said.
“Children enjoy exploring the book collections with her as much as she enjoys helping them,” Haywood said.
Hoover takes the place of Kate Chang, who left in April to take a children’s librarian job in Ocala.
Hoover said she and her husband love Plant City.
She said her husband, who now works at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, likes fishing the canals near their Country Hills home. She enjoys Plant City’s small- town life, which she said is a lot like the historic Virginia town where she grew up.
They have no children at home but have a Boston terrier, Mingo, named after Mingo Falls, N.C., their favorite place to visit.
Hoover said she hopes to expand the children’s programs at the library and to make the children’s section at Bruton Memorial a more inviting and kid- friendly place, with more interesting decorations.
Haywood said Hoover’s experience as a school librarian is an asset.
“The library is always looking for ways to improve our connection with teachers and students and I think that Mary’s experience will move us forward toward that goal,” she said.
Hoover said she looks forward to working with longtime Assistant Children’s Librarian Debbie Clark. The two are already brainstorming on more kids’ activities for the library at 302 W. McLendon St.
“We’re both very crafty and so I’m sure we’ll come up with a lot more crafts,” she said. “This is an exciting opportunity and I’m so glad I’m here.”