Longtime Librarian Mrs. Bivins Retires After Nearly 30 Years at SSCS

on April 15, 2024
woman reads a book to a group of young children sitting on the floor

Longtime SSCS Librarian Heather Bivins reads her favorite book, “The Velveteen Rabbit,” to a group of SSCS youngsters. Mrs. Bivins retired this spring after 28 years with the district.

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” – Albert Einstein

And for nearly 30 years that’s where you’d find Mrs. Bivins. Heather Bivins started her career as SSCS librarian/media specialist in 1995. Back then, before Google and smart phones took over, books were king, and Mrs. Bivins was the caretaker of these publications for generations of Sharon Springs school children. Unfortunately, back problems forced her to retire in March, earlier than she expected, and leave the place that has always felt like home to her.

“SSCS truly feels like my second family,” Mrs. Bivins said. “It never really felt like ‘going to work.’ Even on those tough days, it all brought purpose.”

Mrs. Bivins began her 28 years at SSCS by teaching library skills classes to K-7 students. She recalls one of her biggest achievements in the early years was helping to bring Internet to the school because it was becoming the “new big thing” in education. In 1996, she helped facilitate a partnership with SUNY-Cobleskill to do just that.

“It grew quickly from that point and obviously evolved over time,” she said. “But in its first stages it opened the door to giving our students a means of accessing material for research outside of our school.”

Some of her many other duties as librarian evolved as well like purchasing and cataloging new books or audio-visual materials for the library, collecting resources for teachers to use when researching a topic, collaborating with teachers to complete classroom research projects, overseeing library inventory, and running school book fairs.

One of her biggest challenge occurred during the 2000-2001 capital project when SSCS built its “new” school addition. The library was part of the renovation plans, and that meant every book had to be accounted for, boxed up and moved.

“It was a huge task,” she said. “I will never forget returning to school that fall and having all of the boxes plopped back in the middle of the library space. I had one week to get them all reshelved for our ‘grand revealing’ of the new addition!”

woman reads a book

SSCS Librarian Heather Bivins

Enticing children to develop a love of reading

But like anyone who’s career revolves around books, what Mrs. Bivins loved most about her job was enticing students to get excited about reading. To that end she operated an after school Library Club for young readers, an end-of-the-year Reading Olympics, library fun hours, book swaps, and a popular “Where’s Waldo” research game during COVID she called, “Where in the World is Mrs. Bivins?”

For this, she drove to different places in Schoharie County that have historical significance, filmed from that location and left students clues to figure out where she was.

“This was a really fun project and very engaging in those first months of unsureness during the pandemic,” she recalled.

In addition to school librarian, Mrs. Bivins has also taught Family and Consumer Science since 2011. This was something she didn’t plan on, but in 2010, schools were struggling with budget cuts and her position was on the verge of being reduced to part time. The Family and Consumer Science teacher was going to retire, so Mrs. Bivins took online classes for three summers to earn her FCS teaching certification. The two jobs were combined.

“Turns out I loved teaching the course,” she said. “The students brought lots of enthusiasm to the classroom, especially if we were cooking!”

Even with the advent of new electronics and technology over the years, a librarian’s role is still very important to schools today, Mrs. Bivins said.

“A school librarian gives students that human resource they can go to for help, whether it’s to find a book to read, a website with reliable information, or something that interests them personally they want to learn more about. We always talk about ‘lifelong learning’ and a librarian is one of the greatest resources for encouraging lifelong learning.”

How have school libraries and the role of a librarian changed over the decades?

“In some ways, school libraries have changed so much since I started working, and then other things are very much the same,” Mrs. Bivins explained. “When I first began teaching, the Internet was just coming into schools, so I worked through the great transition from only books to the boundless online resources we have today. There was the belief that at some point the library would become paperless but I have yet to see that happen.”

Speaking of books, what’s this librarian’s favorite book?

“That’s a tough one,” she said. “I obviously like so many of them. I guess it would be, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit.’ It’s one from my childhood that has always stuck with me. The story has several timeless messages, but the main message of becoming ‘real’ by being loved resonates with me as a teacher because I believe children learn best when they feel they are safe and loved.”

What did you like most about your job?

“Without a doubt it was working with the children. Their excitement when they learn something new, or find a book they were dying to read, or share something from their world that was important to them is so contagious and rewarding. Even the toughest days were made brighter when one of the elementary students would just come up to you and spontaneously give you a hug.”

What was it like working in a small school district like SSCS?

“Working in a small, close school district is pretty unique to be a part of in today’s world, and I think it is really special for our students. They have the opportunity to get a great deal of one-on-one attention at SSCS and, for many, that is really helpful to their learning.”

What did children teach you over the years?

“One of the biggest things they taught me is that you have to treat all of your students equally and fairly. They will catch you very quickly if you don’t. I have learned that just like adults, children are going to have good and bad days. Sometimes they may be dealing with things in their lives that I know nothing about but it may be having an impact on their ability to learn. It’s important to be aware.”

What are you going to miss the most about SSCS in retirement?

“Not seeing the bright faces of all of the students every day. Working with the children brought me so much joy. I will also miss all of my co-workers … my ‘other family.’ It may sound cliche, but as I enter retirement I realize just how much the people I have worked with really do feel like family. I already miss that SSCS sense of community and camaraderie.”

What advice would you like to give to your successor?

“Love the children and learn about the community. Be a part of the team and always promote a team spirit. We are all there to do the same thing and we are all important. Always try to do what will most benefit the students. Plan, but be prepared to have those plans change and be able to go with it.”

What do you hope to do in your retirement?

“First thing is to do all I can to get healthy again. I am an artist, so I am hoping to create many works of art and maybe even try my hand at writing a children’s book or two. I’d also like to work with children again, in some capacity, even if it’s just for a little while. Lastly, I want to travel! There is a whole lot of the world out there I have not seen, so that is definitely on the bucket list.”

We Spartans wish Mrs. Bivins well in her retirement. She will be missed.

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