A fuzzy green dragon wearing black-rimmed glasses and a blue vest burst through the doors at the Buena Vista Library Wednesday night as dozens of Burbank residents clapped and smiled.
"It's nice to see this guy," said Chris Runco, the brains behind the Burbank Public Library's new mascot, Dewey the Dragon, just before giving him a warm embrace.
Thursday was Dewey's first time in public — his unveiling marked the culmination of this year's Burbank Neighborhood Leadership Program class project.
PHOTOS: Dewey the Dragon debuts as Burbank Library mascot
While introducing Dewey, Runco said the dragon loves reading, especially books about Chinese history "because in China, dragons are heroes," as well as books on how to breathe fire and fly. Dewey also adores Bill Peet, a longtime Disney story man who helped write "Dumbo" and "The Jungle Book," Runco said.
"He's always on adventures," Runco said of the green dragon, adding that he hopes to see Dewey motivate local children to read. "He's inspired by books and he loves to travel."
In partnership with the public library, the leadership class, made up of 15 residents, hosted a three-week contest soliciting library-mascot designs from the public.
Library officials and program participants sifted through more than 250 submissions and ultimately chose Dewey, created by Runco, a longtime Burbank resident and theme-park designer for Walt Disney Imagineering.
Runco worked on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland, as well as the Grisley River Run and Redwood Creek Challenge Trail at California Adventure.
"This is leadership in its truest form," said class chair Steffen Dziczek. "People going out in the community, finding a need, and finding the resources, the talent and the materials to get it done."
City employee Cathryn Labrado said it's nice to have a mascot that will draw children to the library, including her 6-year old daughter, Ava Villalobos, who was "super excited" when Dewey was introduced.
"They go to Disneyland and take pictures with all sorts of mascots," Labrado said. "It's cool to come to the library and have something like that that children are attached to."
Library Services Director Sharon Cohen said the dragon will be a part of the library's regular programming, and she hopes to soon have a special Dewey library card.
"It really turned out well," Cohen said. "I'm hoping he's going to put a smile on everybody's face."
Ten-year-old Neha Humbe, whose mother was part of this year's leadership class, said she might visit the library more often to see Dewey.
"He looks really cute," Neha said.