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Library substitutes fill a vital role

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Photo submitted Some of the Delta County Libraries substitutes are, from left: Mike Edson, Jan Simmons, Gail Martin, Donna Homan, Susan Hamrick, Dianne Foss and Jinx Pettus.

Everyone who has gone through public school is familiar with the unique role of the substitute teacher, a brave man or woman who enters unsuspecting classrooms at the last minute, expecting to be challenged, questioned or taunted. However, there is another, lesser-known group of substitutes who may also get called in suddenly due to employee illness or leave; this group, too, may not know what awaits them each day, but they prepare themselves with knowledge, open minds, and willingness to work hard. These substitutes are Delta County Library employees, and they fit into the libraries so well that some patrons may not realize they do not work regular schedules.

While Delta County Libraries just hired a new group of substitutes, some, like Dianne Foss, have been loyally answering calls for help in the libraries for years. Because all library staff members are extremely busy with programming and a huge variety of essential tasks, substitutes are vitally important to guarantee that libraries can remain open and well-supported each day. Paonia lead staff member Jane Kelso emphasizes, "We can't say enough how much we appreciate how these men and women are willing to step up to the plate at the last minute. We absolutely have to keep our desks staffed, and our substitutes ensure that happens."

Although their jobs are somewhat unconventional in that they lack set schedules or locations, substitutes find their work very rewarding. Donna Homan started substituting in the Delta County Libraries more than four years ago. She explains, "I love being a roving substitute librarian, working in all of the Delta County Libraries. When I retired after being a librarian for 20 years in the school district, I missed helping people find everything the library offers. Now, I've 'worked the desk' for librarians who were running special programs, presenting puppet shows, doing community outreach or book talks at schools, taking classes, or teaching classes. I even substituted for a librarian who was having a special program for kids at a parade and rodeo. I love doing this work, and I love that I can always learn something new."

Interestingly, Homan is not the only library substitute with a history in the Delta County schools. Many of the substitutes hired by the Library District have had previous jobs with the school district or in other very visible local positions. Hotchkiss lead staff member Terry Johns refers to one of the library district's newest substitutes, Susan Hamrick, who worked for years at Hotchkiss K-8, when she says, "It feels like a natural flow for Susan to go from working in the schools to working in the libraries. All of our substitutes already have a rapport in their communities that they are bringing with them. It is a great community connection."

Hamrick, who has a handful of substitute hours under her belt, has already enjoyed seeing familiar faces in the libraries. She also looks forward to new opportunities, saying, "Working with books has always been my dream. It allows me to go to all five libraries, which gives me an opportunity to meet a lot of different people."

A visit to any Delta County Library can easily result in an interaction with a substitute. Because of their professionalism and skills, they may be hard to recognize as such, and it is very unlikely that they will tolerate traditional substitute treatment like spitballs and paper airplanes.

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