"Just because I am cold-blooded, doesn’t mean I can’t have a warm heart": An Interview with Hardcover the Library Turtle

The Director of Charisma and Hospitality at the Tewksbury (MA) Public Library works hard each day to bring smiles to the faces of library patrons of all ages. SLJ caught up with Hardcover, the cheerful social media darling who also happens to be a  two-year-old yellow-bellied slider turtle.

Step aside, Movers & Shakers: There's a new library superstar on the rise. With more than 2,000 followers on Twitter, where the cheerful library ambassador posts delightful daily updates, Hardcover the turtle is inspiring smiles, breaking stereotypes, and encouraging readers of all ages.

Close-up of Hardcover the turtle

Hardcover, showing off his mastery of the "smize."
All photos courtesy of Tewksbury Public Library

Hi, Hardcover! If I may ask, what species of turtle are you? Are you originally from the Massachusetts area?
Hello! I am a yellow-bellied slider turtle! My species lives in the wild in the southeastern United States, but I was hatched by a breeder and came from a local pet store. There is no record of my exact hatching date, so my friends chose a birthday for me—April 17!—because everyone deserves a shellebration every once in a while. I turned two years old this past April, and my friends threw me a party and gifted many beautiful marbles for my tank. They catch the light, and when you clack them together, they make music!

Your official title is Director of Charisma and Hospitality at the Tewksbury (MA) Public Library. How long have you been in this role and how did you get the job?
My official origin story is:

I was a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman, and—honestly?—I wasn't doing very well. It's really hard to sell products that run on electricity when you live underwater, you know? It was time for a change. I packed up my favorite pebbles and walked down the street. I stopped at the local waffle place for some comfort waffles, and—lo and behold!—overheard a conversation between two of the people who work at the library. They were looking for a new Director of Charisma and Hospitality. I apologized for eavesdropping and handed them my resume. I was hired on the spot! My new job makes me much happier than my old one did, and I get free room and board! Plus, my very own Twitter account, all the books I can read, and tons of new friends! They gave me my pet goldfish for the winter holidays. It really is a wonderful place, and I feel like I truly make a difference here.

I was hired in November 2018, and have been loving my position ever since.

Image of Hardcover's tank/habitat

Sunbathing while keeping a
close eye on library operations.

What’s a typical day-in-the-life for you at the library?
I wake up when the sun shines through the window and throws a rainbow through my tank. When my staff comes in for the day, I make sure to greet them with splashes. I get breakfast on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then settle in for the daily pre-opening staff meeting, where my input is always valued. I am located in the children’s department of the library, so I have the important task of greeting the humans that enter the room. I swim up to greet them at the side of my tank, sometimes splash a hello, sometimes just blink. I make sure to take frequent naps under my sun lamp—which is good to keep my shell from getting shell rot, and also to help with seasonal depression in the winter. (Mental health is just as important as physical health!) Throughout the day, I also check in with my friends on Twitter, make sure that my fish are happy and healthy, and take the time to check in with my staff and let them know that they’re doing a good job.

These goldfish that share your live/work space, are they colleagues, friends, or food?
As Finding Nemo taught us, “Fish are friends, not food!” My goldfish are named Cinnamon, Thyme, and Oregano, and they were given to me in December 2018. They are friends, and also pets, but I tell them that it’s also their job to greet visitors and create a happy and welcoming library environment, so they are also my staff. (Though they aren’t obligated to do this, so I suppose they are more volunteers than employees.)

What are the most challenging aspects of your job? What are the most rewarding?
Just like there are stereotypes about librarians being old and dusty, there are stereotypes about reptiles being aloof and unfriendly. I am fighting to show that, just because I am cold-blooded, doesn’t mean I can’t have a warm heart. It is also somewhat difficult to do outreach, since I don’t generally leave my tank, but I did make an exception for a local school’s STEM night.

I love greeting my friends, particularly those who come in especially to say hello to me. Tiny humans often run to my tank while chanting, “Turtle! Turtle! Turtle!” and I have adults who would otherwise not visit the children’s department popping by to say hello and check on me. It is my job to greet every library patron and make sure they know that they are welcome and valued, both as patrons and as people, and I feel like it’s also my life’s calling. I like to think of myself as the reptilian Mr. Rogers.

Image of Hardcover being held by a human. He appears to be smiling/mouth wide open.

Hardcover getting a hand from one of
his devoted human helpers.

Can you tell us about your primary caregiver, Katrina Lewin? What is your relationship like?
Miss Kat and I are great friends! She is the children’s librarian, and her computer is next to my tank, so we often bounce ideas off each other. She is the one who takes dictation for my Twitter feed and downloads audiobooks for me to listen to. She has been a children’s librarian for eight years now and runs all sorts of programs—science clubs, tea parties, arts and crafts—for all ages. She’s a very nice human, and I slow-blink at her often.

I’d also like to give a great, big “thank you!” to Heather Maganzini, my other best friend at the library. Heather also feeds me snackies and cleans my tank with a special vacuum. She is the children’s specialist, and she is made of rainbows and sunshine.

Finally, what books have you read and loved recently that you’d highly recommend?
I mostly listen to audiobooks, because I worry about getting the pages wet. I recently listened to With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo, and it was wonderful. I’m also a big fan of middle grade books (Natalie Lloyd’s A Snicker of Magic was simply delicious), and on the most recent thunderstormy day, I finished the new “Flavia de Luce” mystery by Alan Bradley. I guess you can say that I read all over the map!

Kiera Parrott is the reviews director for Library Journal and School Library Journal

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