Alcona Elementary School library reopens

LINCOLN – For the first time in years, youngsters will fill the Alcona Elementary School library. Volunteers will teach them how to use the computerized catalog, select from more than 11,000 books and take on the responsibility of returning them when due.

But it wouldn’t have happened if retired teacher Deb Kruttlin hadn’t decided to take on the project. The 4,500-square-foot facility was slowly becoming neglected after budget cuts eliminated its librarian around 2005.

“Last February, after the enhancement millage failed, I went down and got fingerprinted and put in an application to volunteer,” said Kruttlin, who taught at the school seven years ago.

Working two days a week, she then went from classroom to classroom offering to help. Then one day she wound up at the doors of the library.

The large space, with its high ceilings and wall of windows, was now a storage area for overhead projectors, outdated equipment and old projects, she said. Teachers were still bringing students in to check out books, but the wear and tear was showing.

“So I got on the phone and called some of my retired teacher friends,” Kruttlin said.

In May, under the guidance of retired Alpena County Library professional Judi Stillion, Kruttlin and four other volunteers sorted through 12,000 books to determine what was missing, what needed to be replaced and what needed to be catalogued. Then her group and 10 more volunteers rolled up their sleeves and cleaned and dusted, while school custodians got up on ladders to clean light fixtures and high windows.

“If we needed a bucket or a ladder, they supplied them,” Kruttlin said.

The next step was to arrange a roster of volunteers to man the checkout desk five days a week, she said. Kruttlin plans to be there Tuesdays and Wednesdays, unless she has to babysit grandchildren.

“I just want to stress how wonderful it is when you ask for help,” Kruttlin said.

News of the library’s new energy has been making the rounds in the county.

“It’s just an unbelievable gift to the school,” Principal Dan O’Connor said. “We have this tool again that was here.”

Classroom instruction, resources and support for students remains the school’s first priority; hiring a professional librarian is on the list but lower down, he said.

“Before, we had obstacles in the way, because of a lack of manpower down there,” he said. “The difference these volunteers are going to make is just unimaginable.”

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.