Librarian retiring from Robinson Elementary

STARKSBORO — Robinson Elementary School librarian Ann Watson will retire earlier than she expected this year due to budget cuts. After 30 years working as a librarian in Addison County schools — first at Mary Hogan Elementary School in Middlebury for four and a half years and then at Robinson for 26 years — she will leave because her position will be reduced next year from three days a week to two half-days a week.
“That’s why I’m taking my retirement pension because I can’t live on one day a week,” said Watson, a New Haven resident.
Over her more-than two decades of service, which she looks upon fondly, her position has shifted many times from part-time to full-time and back to part-time again. But now, with what she views as too few hours and a lack of commitment to the library, the Robinson librarian must move on.
Having grown up in Putney, Watson is the daughter of children’s book author Nancy Dingman Watson and illustrator Aldren Watson. Her grandfather Ernest W. Watson co-founded the publishing company Watson-Guptill Publications and her sister Clyde Watson is a well-known children’s book author. Ann Watson thus has a hereditary knack for introducing children to books.
With a master’s degree in library-media education from the University of Vermont, Watson began working at the Bixby Memorial Library in Vergennes in the mid-1970s. Although she’s originally from southern Vermont, she recalls visiting her sister at Middlebury College in 1972 when she “just fell in love with the Champlain Valley.”
In terms of the changes that she’s witnessed over her decades of dealing with kids, Watson notes some positives and some negatives.
“I personally really feel like, at least at Robinson, this school is doing a better job than it was doing 25 years ago. I think part of it is that teachers are incredibly committed and dedicated and do everything to learn about how kids learn,” she said. “You can’t be a teacher and kind of let it fly by … and I think we know more now about how to help kids learn.
“I think schools are really positive places for kids to be — at least our school is. It’s a place where students can feel safe.”
Watson also pointed out that schools have taken on greater responsibilities.
“I feel like schools are asked to be parents to students. We’ve taken on so much dealing with the emotional needs of kids,” Watson said.
The most prominent change that Watson noted is the advent of technology.
“As a librarian my job is to teach students how to handle information, to teach students how to be effective users of ideas and data so that they can be life-long learners, and that hasn’t really changed,” she said. “What has changed is how we do that.”
As far as teaching students how to analyze and access information, Watson believes that librarians play a crucial role at all schools.
“I think that libraries are critically important to schools. There have been a lot of research studies lately that show that schools with strong library programs and full-time librarians have kids that are more literate and do better academically,” she said. “I think that the only person in the school that’s really trained to teach not only accessing information but evaluating and sifting through it — synthesizing information — is the librarian.”
To make sure that the library still plays a role at Robinson, Principal Dan Noel indicated that Watson would likely help with the librarian transition next year. Watson, however, worries the school wouldn’t go far enough to help its students with so few librarian hours.
When asked what she will miss the most about Robinson, Watson instantly replied, “The kids.” But she’s worried that they won’t get the proper instruction necessary to become strong critical thinkers.
“I think and have always thought that a strong school library program is very important to student success,” she said. “Perhaps I have not been effective in educating my school and community about that importance.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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