River Bend’s Alger receives regional award

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ELKTON – Margaret Alger enjoys being a librarian.

Alger, 45, tries to make River Bend Elementary School’s library interactive and exciting.

Apparently someone noticed.

Alger was recently named the librarian of the year for the 15-county Shenandoah Region of the Virginia Association of School Librarians.

Alger has been the only librarian River Bend Elementary has had since it opened seven years ago.

In preparation for the job, Alger’s husband, Brian, made a giraffe out of wood, chicken wire and paper mache. Alger and her three children helped paint Ginny, who has graced the RBES library every since.

“We had a ‘jungle’ of books from different genres and Ginny fit with that theme,” Alger said, noting the giraffe became a symbol of the school’s library.

Transporting Ginny on a trailer down U.S. 33 to the school at 14556 Rockingham Pike got quite a few looks from passersby, Alger said.

She tries to make literacy fun with various activities.

“I like to use my crazy voices” while reading to students to help make the story come alive, said Alger, a Cross Keys native who graduated from Eastern Mennonite High School and Bridgewater College.

River Bend Express
Last year, she and RBES’ reading specialist, Katie Shifflett, came up with an idea to make donated books available to students during the summer months.

Kim Tate, Rockingham County Public Schools’ librarian supervisor, donated a teal 1996 Dodge Caravan and visits were made every Monday to Elkton-area locations.

Students were able to borrow books as part of the River Bend Express, Alger said. Teachers and students donated books and magazines to the effort.

“I think people like Margaret who are creative and intelligent have raised the bar for what libraries should be. Education should be engaging,” Tate said, noting one doesn’t necessarily need to be “shushed” in a library anymore.

“Twenty-first century libraries should be a place for collaboration, innovation and fostering curiosity, a place where students go to work together and think together,” Tate said, noting that Alger collaborates with teachers to develop content, and she promotes collaboration between students.

Whether it’s students being a part of a literature circle discussing a book or working together on a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) project, libraries should be the “soul of the school,” Tate said, and a place “where learning grows and spills out to the rest of the building.”

But Alger is taking literacy beyond the school. “When kids are chasing an old blue van, something’s working,” Tate said.

Another idea Alger came up with is Cardinal Kids, a storytime for preschoolers offered in the school library the second Monday of the month, from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m., during the school year.

RBES Principal Sharon Martz nominated Alger for the VAASL award. As one of 15 regional winners, Alger will also be considered for statewide librarian of the year in October.

Martz said that one of Alger’s strengths is the positive, respectful relationships she is able to build with each student.

“She displays a caring attitude about students and seeks to assist each child in reaching his/her best potential,” Martz said via email. “We are so fortunate to have her at River Bend.”

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