Longtime county employee loves lit
Van Woodford may not qualify as a Colorado native, but she comes awfully close. Arriving in Summit County three years before the Eisenhower Tunnel opened, Van and her young family found a sparsely populated area that was a hangout for “hippies” and the perfect place to call home. It was also a time and place when you could still “fall into” a job, which is exactly what happened when Van showed up at the door of the only library in town. “I stopped in the small library in Frisco to volunteer,” Van said. “And the next day I was working there – alone! Of course nothing was computerized then so in that sense it was still possible to learn by immersion. And I must have done OK because I’ve been at it ever since.”
As the longest-serving county employee – more than 35 years now – Van now calls the North Branch Library in Silverthorne home. And it’s there that she indulges in a lifelong passion for books.”My mother wrote stories for my sister and me,” Van said. “My story was called ‘The Teeny Tiny Mouse’ and I think it ignited my love for books. That and the fact that Mom took us to the local library before we could even walk.”Today, Van uses that love of learning to help develop the children’s programs that have been an integral part of the library’s services for more than three decades. These programs, she says, are her passion.
“I see a real correlation between an early love of books and success later in life,” Van said. “Young people who attended our programs 30 years ago understand that and are now bringing their kids. It’s great to see that cycle and to watch a new generation of children develop the language and learning skills that are so essential in today’s world. But besides that, we have a lot of fun. The library isn’t some dark, esoteric place where you have to be quiet. We have a great time here and, to tell the truth, we tend to make a lot of noise!”Van served as the North Branch manager in Silverthorne until last year when she opted to work part time. “We’re more of a community center today then just a place to borrow books,” she said. “Books are still at the core of what we do but we provide information in so many other forms now … The versatility of libraries today is the greatest change I’ve seen.”
When Van isn’t at the library these days, she’s enjoying her grandchild, Noah, and awaiting Noah’s little brother who will arrive in July. And, not incidentally, she’s spending plenty of time “inhaling” the literature she loves. Just don’t ask her who her favorite author is, because that’s a conversation that has no end. “Oh, definitely Sandra Dallas,” Van said, “and Gary Paulsen and James Michener and Fannie Flagg and Thomas Friedman and …”Well, what did you expect? For a lifelong lover of learning, it’s impossible to stop at one.
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