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Children’s librarian leaving

The Williston Observer

June 10, 2004

For the children of Williston, the summer of 2004 is going to be a little different.

During the past four summers they have gotten used to hearing the musical horn of the Bookmobile driving into their neighborhoods. They’ve looked forward to making crafts in the library during the afternoon, and coming back in the evening in their pajamas to listen to stories.

But this summer things will go back to the way they were before, at least for a time.

Ellen Sinoff, Williston’s youth services librarian, is saying goodbye.

“I’m devastated,” said library director Rickie Emerson. “She’s just the best children’s librarian in the state. And she’s also become a good friend.”

Sinoff came to the Dorothy Alling Library in March 2000. She had a master’s degree in library science and a lifetime of experience, most recently as a café owner in Key West, Fla., but the sudden death of her husband propelled her here, where her two grown children were living. Emerson hired her at the library, and Sinoff wasted no time: During her first summer, the Bookmobile, in the form of a rented Ryder truck, was born.

“Later we bought an old, retired school bus for a very small amount of money,” said Sinoff. “A friend of mine painted it. We went to neighborhoods both locally and further away to try to see different people from those we normally see.”

Sinoff soon applied for and won a Paul Post grant from the Vermont Community Foundation to start a program for teens – a group often overlooked at libraries – called Food for Thought.

“I put a sign up – ‘Like pizza? Like books?’ and kids signed up,” said Sinoff. “All those things you hear people say about teenagers, they aren’t true. This was a wonderful, cohesive group.”

A monthly bedtime story hour was another one of Sinoff’s ideas. “When my kids were growing up, I worked,” she said. “I wanted a program for working parents who can’t go to events in the middle of the day.” She also devised Crafternoons, a wildly popular program in which she read the children a story and then helped them make crafts. Emerson said both the Crafternoons program and Food for Thought have been copied by other libraries throughout the state.

Sinoff’s new job as a writer and webmaster for the Pennsylvania-based travel company Doorways Ltd. will give her a chance to use her writing and art skills, but when asked what she will miss most in Williston, she said without hesitation, “The kids. It’s a big change. I have lots of mixed feelings. It will be hard to leave.”

Sinoff also coordinated story hours, which are always packed with Willison children and kids from neighboring towns, and the summer reading program. She helped with book selection and after-school reference materials for kids. Emerson said that all but a scaled-back version of the summer reading program and previously scheduled summer performers will be put on hold until a new librarian is hired.

Even then, things will not be quite the same.

“It’s a huge deal that she’s leaving,” said Wendy Bliss, Williston resident and mother of three. “We go two or three times a week to the library. She’s just so nice and helpful and she knows everybody.”

“She has a genuine caring for young people, and they just blossom in her presence,” said Emerson. “She is amazing, she really is, and yet she doesn’t show off, you just kind of slowly find out as she creates all these wonderful things how good she is. It’s terribly sad that she’s leaving.”

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