Wegner honored for book club dedication
Circling the Square
By Ceci Clover, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: October 3, 2012
For many years, Debbie Schlinger has wanted to nominate Lynn Wegner for the Wyoming Library Association’s Trustee/Volunteer Award, which is given in recognition of an individual or a group for outstanding volunteer service and accomplishments for a library.
Until her recent retirement, Debbie was the Teton County Library’s youth education and program coordinator, and before that she was the children’s department supervisor. In those capacities, Debbie felt book clubs should be part of the library’s outreach service but questioned how and at what level to start them. Should she focus on middle school or high school? Where would she ever find the time or staff support to help with such projects?
All those concerns began to melt away when Debbie asked Lynn, who had recently retired as the Teton County School District’s gifted and talented teacher, what she thought could be done. Lynn had hundreds of ideas, sincere interest and an unparalleled energy and rapport with students of all ages. Without any hesitation, Lynn stepped up and said, “I’ll do all levels six through 12 monthly.” This meant she would be taking on seven different book clubs a month.
Lynn looked at it as an opportunity to share her love of literature, promote library services and make library book clubs a fun and educational experience for young adults and their parents. For the past 12 years, she has done just that. During that time, Lynn has worked with more than 700 students and their families and read and facilitated some 625 book discussions, all without any compensation. Her superb planning and book recommendations have kept 90 percent of her members returning year after year.
In nominating Lynn for this prestigious award, Debbie lauded her continuous reading and prep work to make sure each gathering was worthwhile. She also praised her flexibility in finding locations in the library to hold meetings, sometimes at a minute’s notice. That was especially vital this year, as construction at the library tended to rendered it unsuitable for school book club discussions. Debbie was also sure to mention Lynn’s themed parties that brought the discussions alive, each of which was a work of dramatic creativity and finesse.
Lynn’s book club members also donated untold hours helping Debbie host visiting authors through the years. But in Debbie’s mind, Lynn’s ultimate project was this year’s “One Book, One Family” project that focussed on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic. Lynn read lists of Titanic books to find appropriate ones for all ages and devised family discussion questions for each level. In culmination of the three-month effort, Lynn turned the middle school commons area into a set of the ship itself and staged an Oscar award presentation that would have been the envy of Hollywood. Lynn and book club members donned period-appropriate dress of crew and passengers and role-played the class distinctions with dialogue and entertainment throughout the evening. To top it all off, Lynn had period food for the evening prepared and donated by local restaurants, thereby producing what was a “Night to Remember” for all participants.
Her style of organization in leading open, honest, thought-provoking discussions for the many years she has been doing the “dinner and conversation clubs” has encouraged students to bring their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and mentors. As Lynn said, “The mutual respect and camaraderie that develops is extraordinary.” She has led with plenty of humor and a few tears as well as, while inspiring some of her upper-level readers to make their own book selections and lead discussions with her oversight each month. Her book groups have helped students appreciate all genres of literature.
Every year, Lynn compiles a comprehensive overview of each club’s reading selections and the highlights of its year. Lynn says these clubs are near and dear to her heart, but it is clear she has made literature near and dear to the hearts of hundreds of students.
All this and the passion with which it was done prompted Debbie to nominated Lynn this year and to be with her to accept the award last week. Receiving this award places Lynn in the enduring record of those librarians, trustees and volunteers who made important contributions to the State of Wyoming’s library community.
To all those recognized over the years and to all those who have worked in Wyoming libraries, the Wyoming Library Association collectively says, “You are all winners.”
Ceci Clover writes weekly on the doings and doers in and around Jackson Hole. Submissions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 307-733-8348.