After an accomplished 42-year career in librarianship, Chris Van Burgh is retiring from her position as Database Instruction Librarian at the Wyoming State Library on June 2.
“We’re thrilled for Chris as she starts her new adventures, but also incredibly sad for the loss of her talent and institutional memory,” said Jamie Markus, Wyoming State Librarian. “We’ve appreciated her energy, enthusiasm, and sunshiny personality. She’ll truly be missed.”
Chris graduated with an M.S. Ed. from the University of Wyoming and began her career with the UW Libraries in 1981. She worked in a variety of departments — Documents, Maps & Microforms; the Geology Library; and Reference and Outreach Services — before making the move to Statewide Information Services at the Wyoming State Library in 1998. At the WSL, she hit the road, visiting many of the state’s libraries and schools to train staff on GoWYLD.net. Now, as a member of the Library Development Office, she continues to share the incredible wealth of resources available to Wyoming in the statewide GoWYLD databases.
She’s held a variety of leadership positions in the Wyoming Library Association. Along the way, she’s nurtured many other library leaders. Over 20 years ago, Chris was on the committee that formed the Wyoming Library Leadership Institute, which provides opportunities for learning, mentoring, and developing leadership skills to promote personal and professional growth. Since its inception, Chris has been a driving force behind WLLI. The Institute now boasts 164 graduates, many of whom have taken the skills they learned and stepped up into leadership positions.
“I’m so proud of being in on the ground floor of the creation of the institute and being able to help grow and nurture it,” Chris said. “To see what it has done for so many, to watch their growth and leadership.”
The creation of WLLI was cited when Chris was named the WLA Librarian of the Year in 2010. Richard Landreth, recently retired as Director of the Lincoln County Library System, wrote in a letter of support for her nomination, “Personally, I have taken on many roles that I would never have considered if it were not for WLLI and the encouragement of Chris. Her passion and dedication to the profession are evident in all she does for librarians and libraries across the state. She has empowered and educated librarians to step out of their comfort zone and become ‘home grown’ pillars of their state and local communities.”
Chris’s accomplishments are many. She trained library workers across the state and has been at the forefront of promoting all things GoWYLD. Her first year, she went on the road, training around the state every month of the year, multiple sites per month. Her second year, she racked up over 6,000 miles on her travels.
As Jeanette Woodward, a former Wyoming library director, put it, “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the way you play Johnny Appleseed, trekking across the state scattering seeds of good library info.”
Early in her stint at the WSL, she and Linn Rounds took Mother Goose Asks “Why?” to communities. This program connected adults with children’s books and the science and math activities they could draw from them to teach their children. They reached out to incarcerated parents with MGAW, and were met with great appreciation. One inmate wrote in a thank you note that he now had something to talk with his kids about and something to send to them.
“It’s really hard to capture just how influential Chris has been in the Wyoming library community,” said Brian Greene, Library Development Manager. “She’s had a lasting impact we greatly appreciate. We’re excited for her for all the new opportunities opening up to her with her retirement.”
“I worked with cool people and got to participate in an amazing array of projects,” Chris said. “But the best part for me was getting to travel around the state and train in our libraries and in our schools — hundreds and hundreds of miles, traveling with the laptop lab with its miles of cables. I went as far north as Ranchester and to the edges of the state in every other direction. Every county library, lots of branches and schools. In the early days, I traveled with a dollie and several tubs of cables, cords, and 12 laptops. All had to be wired to the hub, all had individual IPs — it was a process!”
Chris gave numerous conference presentations, including at Wyoming Innovations in Learning, AdvancedED Wyoming School Improvement, WyDEC/WyoCTA , Midcontinental Chapter/Medical Library Association, and Information Power. Of course, she was regularly featured at the annual Wyoming Library Association conferences, where librarians and library workers could learn from her how to best use the great resources in GoWYLD.
“I loved being in our libraries and schools,” she said. “I loved working with all the incredible people that work in our libraries and schools, and hopefully I gave them useful tools AND information to take into their jobs. I got to work with public libraries, school libraries, and college libraries, as well as with the homeschool association and day care, Head Start, and Even Start programs. So many great experiences — sharing children’s books with the incarcerated, holding programs on genealogy in Kemmerer, teaching databases to one-fourth the population of Ten Sleep, and sharing resources for the University of Wyoming’s future teachers. In the early days, I also taught ‘what is the internet’ — yes, I’ve been around that long — and basic HTML.
She added, “And to you, my Wyoming Library Community, I’m so grateful for and appreciative of all your time, talent, tears, and tenacity. I’ve been very lucky to get to work with you all. Might sound like I’m writing in your yearbook, but stay strong, support each other, and keep in touch.”