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click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

The last time Virginia Carlson visited Manhattan she wore bell-bottom pants and had long blond hippie hair. The year was 1968. "I loved The Beatles and the Stones."

This month, Carlson, a children's librarian and supervisor at the Pikes Peak Library District returned to New York, this time sans leather miniskirt, to collect a prestigious award honoring her for excellence in public service from the New York Times.

One of 27 librarians recognized nationally, Carlson is somewhat low key; the award, she says reflects the efforts of the everyone in the local library district's children's department.

"I'm so lucky," she said of her job of 17 years. "I have a great job because I get to read to kids a lot."

Reading to children almost every day allows her to keep alive many of the 1960s ideals that propelled her as a university student, including travels through Central Asia studying art. Books, like foreign cultures, open children to a wider world. "They let children see that people can have a wide variation in appearance and culture," she said.

At the downtown Penrose library's children's section, everyone sits in a multicolored reading nook and at 10:30 every day except Tuesday and Sunday a librarian reads them stories. Next to Carlson's desk, two sister bunny rabbits -- Blanca and Noche -- hop around in a cage. Maintaining a magical world is hard work, Carlson says, but worth it. "You have to feel passionate about children and reading," she said. "If you don't you'll burn out in six months."

-- by Dan Wilcock

photo by Sean Cayton

  • Bedrock of our society

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