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Lockwood librarian closes book on career
Diane Slagsvold worked to match students' interests and skill levels to encourage reading while she was librarian at Lockwood School.

For the last "25.81" years, Diana Slagsvold has been with students through Dick and Jane's adventures and seen the students' excitement at solving Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries.

But this month, she closed her last book in the Lockwood School library and will soon turn another page of her life.

The 2005-06 school year was Slagsvold's last as a professional educator. At the beginning of her career, she set a goal of retiring after 25-years.

Those years flew by, and now Slagsvold is accomplishing her goal. She is going to take the summer off, as so many educators do. But she expects that she'll begin looking for another way to be involved with books and kids this fall.

Although Slagsvold didn't spend her entire education career in libraries, she did call Lockwood School her work-home for the last 17 years. Her mom was also an educator, and her sister and two close family friends were librarians. So, for Slagsvold, the book-filled position seemed a natural path.

Exploring their interests

As a librarian, Slagsvold provided students the opportunity to explore their individual interests rather than sticking to the rigid curriculum by which classroom teachers abide.

In her first years as a librarian, World War II and history books were very popular. Those have since gone by the wayside, though, and students are more apt to choose books about snakes, dinosaurs and spiders, along the traditional standbys of tales of horses, dogs and cats.

"Kids' first love is nonfiction because of the specific topics they enjoy. As (reading skills) progress, they develop interests in stories of fiction," Slagsvold said.

One of the perks of the job is guiding kids to a specific series or topic, Slagsvold said. She often introduced them to a character, and they took off with it, devouring each book they got their hands on.

The biggest thrill as a librarian, Slagsvold said, is when kids officially become "readers," seeking out books to read during their spare time and including reading as a hobby in their lives.

Children read at younger ages now than when Slagsvold began leading them through the written word.

Helping all readers

All reading levels exist in nearly every grade, with some kindergartners arriving at school with a third-grade reading level, and, in contrast, some older students at a beginner's reading level. The obligation as a librarian, Slagsvold said, was to assist readers at every level and provide customized help in finding books just right for each student.

Slagsvold's own love for reading came as a result of the Nancy Drew series, which she borrowed from a friend. She remembers reading her way through the shelves of her small-town library. Connecting kids and books successfully comes from her love of both.

At Lockwood, students in kindergarten through eighth grade share a library. Until the 2004-05 school year, Slagsvold was the librarian for the kindergartners through fifth-graders. Watching them grow in reading skill and as people, she was well able to guide them through their reading life.

Slagsvold said that as a librarian, she was thrilled any time a student wanted to read. There are so many other activities to occupy their lives and other entertainment options, she said; today's students don't have the free time to devote to reading as in the past.

Slagsvold tells the story of a young student who was at her babysitter's house when she discovered the book she was reading would soon come to an end. Upon the realization, she began reading slower so she wouldn't run out of reading material, savoring the words along the way.

"That's when I'd say, 'Aha, she's hooked,' " Slagsvold said.

Contact Angela Buckley at abuckley@billingsgazette.com or 657-1241.

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