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A Bozeman Public Library employee who has dedicated decades to local kids and families was named Montana’s librarian of the year.

Cindy Christin started working at Bozeman Public Library over 30 years ago, when she became a part-time children’s librarian. At the time, she had just moved to Bozeman and was raising young kids.

Christin didn’t know anyone in town and didn’t know what to do with her kids. So, once she began working at the library, she started a “books and babies program”.

The goal was two-fold: to help build literacy skills for kids starting at a young age, and to help young parents connect with each other.

“Having a young child can be a really isolating kind of experience,” Christin said. “We wanted to provide a place for families in our community, caregivers and parents, to just have some social time and talk.”

Christin, who became the full-time head of youth services in 2006, has spent her years at the library trying to meet the needs of Bozeman’s kids and families. Her department runs a toddler story time, a children’s book club, after-school activities for kids of all ages and parenting classes.

Though Christin started working at the library because of her background as a preschool teacher and her love of teaching kids to read, she said one of the most fulfilling parts of the job is working with families.

“If we meet the needs of parents at a young age we are a support system forever,” Christin said.

Christin’s work in Bozeman has not gone unnoticed. Library Director Susan Gregory said nominating Christin for the Montana Library Association’s Sheila Cates Librarian of the Year Award was a “no brainer.”

Christin is well-known among librarians throughout Montana, Gregory said, and is well-remembered by kids and families who come through the library. That became clear one day when Gregory and Christin stopped for coffee in Three Forks while they were on the way to a meeting in Helena.

The shop was packed, Gregory said, but while they were sitting at a table, a man in the crowd spotted Christin and said hi to “Ms. Cindy from story time.”

The man hadn’t lived in the area for years, Gregory said, but still remembered Christin.

“She has a powerful impact on children from the time they are brand new little babies, I think really for the rest of their lives,” Gregory said.

It was a surprise last week when Christin came into work and saw a press release announcing the award.

Christin originally found out about the award in March, but the library association’s annual conference was canceled, and the award went by the wayside, just as the library’s regular programing did.

Now, the library is closed to visitors due to COVID-19. The children’s staff had to pack away all the department’s toys and focus on providing “book bundles” to families, who can call in and request books on different topics.

Despite not being able to work with kids in person, Christin said they are “having a blast” talking to families when selecting books. They throw in a few books to each bundle they hope will push a kid’s reading, she said.

“We always want to be expanding their world,” Christin said.

“Books are the best, of course, it’s a wonderful thing to share with a child of any age.”

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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