From The Decatur Daily
by Ronnie Thomas
PRICEVILLE — Nineteen kindergarten students sat on the carpeted floor in a room off the library at Priceville Elementary School on Wednesday morning.
October is National Fire Prevention Month, so librarian Kathy Craig showed the students a video about fire safety.
“I think you’re going to like Sparky,” she said, and their eyes widened. They became enthralled with tips from Sparky the Fire Dog.
The lesson over, Craig led the students onto the library’s bustling main floor as they selected books to read. At three tables nearby, senior residents of The Terrace at Priceville taught another group of kindergartners the alphabet.
Across the way at another table, fifth-grade students chatted quietly as they researched early explorers.
“I love books, and I love kids,” Craig said as she surveyed her domain. “Put them together, and you’ve got a library, and I know how to manage it because of my business background. I don’t have to wonder why I wanted to be a librarian.”
On Sept. 27 as the Alabama Library Expo ended its 2012 state tour at Calhoun Community College, ALE President David Burrow of Pell City presented Craig a Herman Moore LAMP Award. The award goes annually to Library and Media Professionals for exceptional service to state schools.
“Kathy’s a workhorse,” Priceville Elementary School Principal Anne Knowlton said. “She has great ideas, and she loves bringing in parents to help and including them in the activities.
“She’s on our literacy team and offers valuable input. I can always count on her to be a team player. She will do whatever she needs to do.”
Debra Freeman, in her 16th year as a kindergarten teacher at the school, lauds Craig for her energy and enthusiasm.
“The library is a very welcome place for teachers and for students,” Freeman said. “I feel Kathy has given our library a makeover, or a facelift, since she has been here.
“It’s more user friendly, and she has updated the use of technology in our book collection.”
Cindy Weaver of Danville, in her fifth year as Craig’s aide, walked along a line of plastic tubs sorting books.
“Kathy pulls books and gets them ready for all the classes and works closely with kindergartners and first-grade students every week,” Weaver said. “And since I’m a veteran, I love what she does to support veterans, by inviting them to the library to tell their stories.”
Gayle Strider, 77 — formerly of Hartselle and noted throughout the area for her works of art — was one of the independent residents at The Terrace who came over Wednesday to assist the kindergartners.
“I’ve been at The Terrace five months, and this is the first time I’ve been in the school,” she said. “These children are darlings. It’s good for me to have a relationship with small children. And the library appears to be in excellent shape.”
Strider noticed something else about the library.
“It’s a happy atmosphere,” she said. “When we were growing up, going into the library was like going into a sanctuary. It’s exciting here and comfortable. It makes you want to pull a book down and read to a child.”
The often soft hum heard in the library isn’t lost on Craig.
“But the noise isn’t deafening or disturbing,” she said. “It’s a happy chatter, as students go about their work.”
Craig is her seventh year as a librarian, her fourth as librarian at Priceville Elementary. During a rare moment when all the students had left, she spoke about the twists and turns that led her to a life among books.
She graduated at New Hope High School in 1978 and still lives near the community in Cloud’s Cove, on a farm that has been in her family for 105 years.
At 19, she married her high school sweetheart in 1979; the couple divorced a decade later.
“I started working at a Wal-Mart in south Huntsville seven years before my divorce,” she said. “Then I stayed on out of necessity. But I just knew I had to do something more with my life. I knew I was capable of doing more.”
Through a 24-year career at Wal-Mart “doing everything,” she juggled work and class schedules as she pursued her education.
She earned degrees at Calhoun Community College and Athens State University.
In 2006, commuting every mile, she got her graduate degree in library information studies at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. And that’s the year she retired from Wal-Mart.
She worked in Madison County schools as a fourth-grade teacher before logging three years as librarian at Rainbow Elementary in Madison City. Then she arrived in Priceville.
“The library is like the best of all my worlds together,” she said. “I deal with vendors here, and I don’t just manage the patrons of the library. But I manage the assets, the budgets and schedules.”
Fourth-grader John Mason, 10, gave his thoughts about Craig after he checked out a book and prepared to leave.
“She’s a good librarian,” he said. “That’s all she does. And that’s all I come in here for.”