Steamboat’s Chris Painter to receive 2012 Hazie Werner Award
February 17, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Chris Painter, who nurtured a vision for a 21st-century public library in Steamboat Springs for more than a decade, will become the 24th recipient of the Hazie Werner Award for Excellence during a reception Thursday at The Steamboat Grand.
Painter is the director of the Bud Werner Memorial Library in downtown Steamboat Springs. Hazie Werner, who ran a landmark ski shop here, was the mother of the late American ski racing great Bud Werner, the namesake of the library.
The Hazie Werner Award was established in 1989 by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. to honor Werner, who set a tone of hospitality and caring for Steamboat Springs that has carried over into its maturation as an authentic resort community.
"Chris has focused her professional career on the betterment of the Steamboat Springs community and developing one of the finest institutions of its kind in the state," said Chris Diamond, president and chief operating officer of Ski Corp. "Through all her community giving, activism and personal perseverance, she embodies the can-do spirit of Hazie Werner. Clearly, she has made Steamboat Springs a better place for all of us."
Each of the past 23 recipients has been chosen for her pursuit of personal goals that established a standard of excellence in her given field.
Painter said Friday that shortly after receiving the news of the honor, a member of her board asked her if she had told anyone.
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"I said, 'No, I'm too much in awe to run around and tell everybody.' I really don't picture myself in that group."
It was Painter and an ambitious board of directors who went to the voters of the library district and earned their approval to build a $12.5 million expansion that embraced grand views of the Yampa River while allowing the library room to broaden its programming. At the same time, the original architectural forms of the library that honors Buddy Werner were kept intact.
Retired Steamboat Springs High School librarian Jayne Hill said part of the success of Bud Werner Memorial Library is due to Painter's determination to create a library that is responsive to its patrons' needs.
"I'm really close to that library, and what I see is that Chris has studied people's needs and then set out to design a personalized library that fits the community. Chris has done a wonderful job of creating a wonderful rural library."
Today, patrons flock to the library to check out DVDs of popular films and TV programs as well as contemporary pop and rock music.
Bud Werner reference librarian Jackie Kuusinen views Painter as a mentor.
She began working at the library in 2008 when reference librarian Sarah Kostin shifted her focus and became the youth services librarian. Painter backed Kuusinen's candidacy for an academic scholarship from the library board that allowed her to pursue her master's degree while acting as the reference librarian.
"She spent a lot of time cultivating me and has been a leader in the truest sense of the word, as well as an intellectual powerhouse," Kuusinen said. "I admire how adamant Chris has always been about meeting changing library user needs and keeping that in the forefront of her mind."
Painter said it is rewarding to see how the community has gravitated to the library as a gathering place.
"I am so pleased that the vision I and others shared really worked," she said. "The old library was filled with bookshelves until there were very few chairs left. A library should be a place where people work and dream and study, and maybe even write a book."
Buddy Werner, who was a three-time Olympian in 1956, 1960 and 1964 and won many championships, still was at the peak of his athletic prowess when he died in a Swiss avalanche on April 12, 1964.
Hill said the next goal at the library is to recreate a permanent exhibit that tells the story of Buddy Werner. Painter agreed that is a high priority.
"We have an obligation to remember and preserve who Buddy was so that years and years from now, we remember why we are called the Bud Werner Memorial Library," Painter said.
Hazie Werner would approve.
Past award recipients
Past recipients of the Hazie Werner Award for Excellence include: Skeeter Werner Walker, Katy Rodolph Wyatt, Eleanor Bliss, Carol Baily, Lucile Bogue, Criss Fetcher, Dorothy Wither, Sureva Towler, Rita Valentine, Geneva Taylor, Carol Schaffer, Gloria Gossard, Jayne Hill, Elaine Gay, Millie Beall, Arianthe Stettner, Wanda Redmond, Margi Briggs-Casson, Margaret "Poogie" Dawes, Nancy Stahoviak, Carol Booth Fox, Diane Moore and Sue Birch.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com