Beloved children’s librarian leaves behind legacy of literacy, fun and community
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The year was 2003, and Sarah Kostin was fresh out of college when she decided to make a pit stop in Steamboat Springs to do a little snowboarding for the season. She had dreams of getting to the West Coast and becoming a writer. Fate had other plans.
After months of working several jobs and snowboarding, she saw an ad in the Steamboat Pilot & Today for a shelving position at Bud Werner Memorial Library.
“It was six or seven hours a week putting books away,” said Kostin, who has a degree in English and communication and is an avid reader and writer.
So, still in pajamas and donning a ski cap, Kostin sauntered into the library for her interview.
It took Michelle Dover, the library’s current circulation manager, about five minutes to figure out Kostin needed a bigger role for her big personality.
“She’s just a joyful, fun loving person, and right away, I knew she should be working with people,” Dover said.
Within a few years, Kostin went from the front desk to reference librarian as she took advantage of an in-house library scholarship that allows employees to get their masters in library science.
“I took all the children’s library courses I could, hoping that someday, I would be a children’s librarian,” Kostin said.
By January 2009, her dream came true when the position opened up just as Steamboat was enjoying its beautiful new library and remodel.
“Our director (Chris Painter) likes to tell about Sarah’s first day on the job,” said Alysa Selby, friend and fellow librarian. “She rode her cruiser bike through the children’s library dinging her bell and shouting ‘Time for story time. Time for story time,’” laughed Selby.
It was only the beginning said longtime friend and colleague Sherry Holland.
“She has been the heart and soul in the library’s development,” Holland said. “The changes she brought have been about what’s best for kids and families.”
Kostin quickly went to work honing in on literacy and program development. She embedded herself in organizations and schools around town to bring in storytelling and programming that would give kids incentive to read every day.
A generation of parents and children enjoyed her yoga story time, her infamous library sleepovers and family events, like the teddy bear picnic.
The Landers family’s two teenagers basically grew up with Kostin, and their earliest memories stretch back to toddlerhood.
“She had the owner of the pet shop come in with his snakes. It was really awesome for a 3-year-old,” said Timmy Landers, now a 14-year-old freshman at Steamboat Springs High School.
He and his sister Caroline would also make sure to read 50 hours every summer in order to be rewarded with Kostin’s library sleepovers.
“Even though we weren’t supposed to stay up late, we’d run around with flashlights and play hide ‘n seek in the book stacks,” Timmy said.
Mom Kelly Landers summed up Kostin’s greatest gift.
“She made the library a real community-friendly place for us to bring our children and for our children to grow up together,” said Landers, director of development for the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat. “Her enthusiasm shined through whenever you walked through the door.”
After 16 years of service to the library and the community, Kostin is leaving her position as youth services librarian Oct. 1 to pursue a new career as a transformational coach and to return to her original plan of writing.
“I’m not trying to focus on what I’m losing. I’m focusing on what I’m gifting, and I’m gifting the most wonderful job to somebody else,” Kostin said.
And Kostin said she found the perfect fit. Jamie Collins will be coming from California back to her native Colorado to accept the position.
“I knew it had to be someone really special, and Jamie Collins was a sparkly unicorn,” Kostin said. “I knew instantly she was the one.”
And while she’ll miss toddlers running into her office to show her their newest book or artwork, she said the library will always be a part of who she is.
“I’m blessed to have been a part of it for so long,” Kostin said. “It really has been so huge in my development as an adult and as a good human being.”
The library is encouraging the community to drop off a postcard or goodbye letter for Kostin at a special mailbox that will be placed at the library’s kid desk starting Monday.
And to find her once she leaves the library, visit her new life coaching website at sarahkostin.com.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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