Steamboat Springs Since school let out Wednesday, retiring Strawberry Park Elementary School librarian Sherry Holland has been busy training her replacements and, as she puts it, "de-Hollandizing" the campus’s library.
Retiring Routt County educators
Steamboat Springs School District
■ Kerry Kerrigan, 30 years
■ Sally Howard, 20 years
■ C.K. Erickson, 19 years
■ Nat Cooper, 18 years
■ Judy Ludwig, 17 years
■ Karen Reynolds, 8 years
South Routt School District
■ Peggy Barnes, 36 years
■ Deb Knott
Hayden School District
■ Mike Luppes
But after 14 years running the library, stocking its shelves and inspiring students in kindergarten through fifth grade to discover books cover to cover, there’s no wonder that de-Hollandizing the Strawberry Park library has been quite the chore.
Fueled by nearly a decade and a half of nonstop energy, it may be impossible to erase the mark Holland has left on the campus and the Steamboat Springs reading community.
“From the second she interviewed, she gave this sense of energy for our school related to our media center,” said Strawberry Park Principal Tracy Stoddard, who was on Holland’s interviewing committee before she was hired. “She was so vivacious and had so many ideas.”
Her librarian career began in the early 1980s at the Bud Werner Memorial Library. Inspired by the likes of library Director Chris Painter, Holland took her background in botany and redirected her energy to libraries.
From Bud Werner, she took a job as the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services media coorinator. She met more like-minded locals, such as Jane Romberg and Jayne Hill, while building the BOCES library to share with its member districts.
“Technology was really starting to ignite, so things started going really fast,” Holland said. “I’m sitting there listening, loving everything I’m doing in the library world, and I thought, 'Well, you know what, it’s time to really make that quantum leap.'”
That leap meant returning to school, this time to get her master’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado. Holland packed up her family and moved to Greeley, serving as a technology trainer to pay her way through school. The first eight years of her career as a librarian were spent in Greeley public schools, such as Jefferson and Monfort elementary schools.
Greeley is where the first in a series of dramatic library transformations began to take place. As technology morphed, so too did the librarian job description. Card catalogs became online public accessing catalogs. Technology had taken over.
“I helped (Greeley schools) integrate all of the changeover from being a stand-alone to having actually the electronic card catalog instead,” Holland said. “It was a really exciting time for me. Getting to move from two different schools down there was a great experience.”
The jump from Monfort to Steamboat Springs presented yet another big change. In Greeley, Holland had librarian aides and all kinds of outside help with the 750 kids she would see every week. In Steamboat, she was expected to serve as a teaching librarian who also handled circulation and shelving.
Holland not only made it work, she built a little book-filled empire in the room at the end of Strawberry Park’s main hall.
“She wanted the library to be the hub of the school, where kids got excited about reading and literacy,” Stoddard said. “That’s truly what she built. All the kids loved her.”
But after her 13th year at Strawberry Park, Holland thought maybe it was time to make a change — to bring in “fresh blood” to the hub of campus. After all, the majority of the elementary school’s teachers were younger than her children, Holland said.
Holland spent the tail end of last week and will continue into part of this week training her successors, her "newbies," as she likes to say. Christine Russell and Sarah LaPine, both current teachers on campus, will split duties as her replacements, and Holland is comfortable the library is in professional hands for 2014-15 and beyond.
As for Holland, her career is coming full circle, and she lights up at the prospect. She will return to Bud Werner Memorial Library, where she will get to narrow her focus a bit and work with those in the library world she admires dearly.
“I find that my focus is different, and it’s important to really go after what you want with a passion,” Holland said. “I really wanted to spend my time working directly with kids, so I’m excited about being down at Bud working to help my heroes, like (youth services librarian) Sarah Kostin, who has really been a critical piece in terms of the success of my program.”
Will Holland ever fully retire? Right now, she likes to laugh at that idea.
“God, I hope not,” she said. “What is retirement? I hope to spend more time telling stories.”
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll