Kathy House has spent her adult life educating the community’s children. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Big Sky’s beloved librarian to retire

After 30 years of building the library system Kathy House plans on adventuring

Say the name Kathy House in the Big Sky community and watch the eyes of children and adults light up. As Big Sky School District librarian for the last 30 years, she has been a mentor to staff and students, changing the trajectory of lives with caring and the power of education.

In September, when Big Sky educators will be preparing to head back to school after summer break, House will be packing her bags, preparing to trek the approximately 125 miles between Chamonix, France and Zermatt, Switzerland – called the Haute Route – with four of her friends.

She explained that her adult life has been spent in the care of children – her own and the community’s. She will soon embrace freedom and adventure.

“I am going to live my life,” she said. “It is finally my time.”

The journey will be both a retirement and birthday gift to herself – the official start of a new chapter after three decades invested with the Big Sky School District (BSSD) library system and the community library. She described the step as bittersweet.

“She single-handedly built the community library and elementary library we have today. Her efforts are unprecedented and her commitment to the district insurmountable,” said Ashley Jenks, who will be House’s successor for K-12 Library/Media next year.

The library was actually a partitioned closet when House first stepped foot in it in 1989. She worked there one day a week and started a preschool to get to know the locals. A year later, a teaching position opened up for combined first, second and third grades. She taught for four years before becoming pregnant with triplets. After a year sabbatical with them, her principal suggested she get a library sciences degree. The rest is 30 years of history and beautiful memories. In all of that, she feels grateful for the team she built, for the teachers and staff in the school district for being so supportive and positive, for her friends and family that have stood by her and for the Friends of the Library who have helped make library expansions possible.

House describes it as a whirlwind while Jenks, Dani Kabisch, who will take over as library director, and Amy Hunter, community librarian, describe her as a visionary, always with a view for expansion and for creating better opportunities.

“She has an amazing vision for the community. She came in and she wasn’t like, ‘I’m working for the school,’ but she came in and said, “A library is a library – and it is meant for everybody,’” Hunter said.

An epiphany occurred when she was driving the triplets to Bozeman for story time at the library – if the resources are available, why not use them? The idea of a community library was born. Thanks to her efforts and the help of friends and the community, it happened in 2000, followed by another expansion in 2005.

There is power in information – knowing where to find it and how to use it. House and her staff explained that seeing the children come in excited to learn – and assisting them in that goal – is heartwarming.

The toughest part of retiring will be leaving the children. She loves them and that is not a oneway street.

“The kids love her. She is probably undoubtedly their favorite teacher. Library is their favorite class. She teaches them how to use the internet, research skills, they create movies, ads, they use programs where they create content,” Kabisch said.

Her staff are hoping she will maintain an active role with the library in some capacity. She said she will visit.

“I plan on Kathy being in here regularly, I don’t care what she plans,” Hunter said. “I don’t think you can separate the library from Kathy – it is so much a part of her and the team she brought in. The library would not exist without Kathy, so it will always be Kathy.”

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