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Retired librarian Mary Herrington instills a love of reading in children

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398.2 — A number retired librarian Mary Herrington keeps at the top of her head. She knows exactly what treasured books are contained within this set of Dewey Decimal numbers — fables.


Herrington directed students in diocesan Catholic schools to that section for more than 25 years at schools including St. Charles Borromeo and St. Agnes (1987-96), and St. Ann (2004-14) in Arlington, and St. Leo the Great School in Fairfax (2001–04). She also spent 15 years in the Alexandria public library system.


When her daughter started school, Herrington applied to be the librarian at St. Agnes. As she was getting ready to start, a priest asked her to also oversee the library at St. Charles.


“I was young and inexperienced, but I gave it a try,” she said.


She’d spend mornings at St. Charles and afternoons at St. Agnes.


“There’s a special stress-busting quality to Catholic schools because underlying this work regiment is kind understanding,” she said. “Being less stressed you can be more creative. Creativity comes from the empty time.”


Herrington points to the duality of librarianship. “It’s of a dual nature because it’s quiet when research takes place and is active when you have children, reviews and classes. The quiet part is reading selection. It takes a lot of time if you really want to do a good job, you have to check the reviews constantly.”


Read-alouds are the active part of librarianship, she said. Herrington taught theme-based classes for junior high students and her fifth- and sixth-graders participated in the annual Battle of the Books, a reading enrichment program where students are required to read all genres of books.


Herrington worked with children ages 3-13. But she wasn’t alone. She was surrounded by 23 parent volunteers at one point. “My closest friends today are those mothers. They are very generous people.”


Herrington is from Buffalo, N.Y., and studied at the London School of Economics at Queen Mary College. She earned her bachelor’s in history at Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y. She earned her master’s in history at Columbia University Teachers College in New York, and a master’s in library science at The Catholic University of America in Washington. She currently studies at the Corcoran School of Art at George Washington University in Washington.


Herrington now works on writing and illustrations for a memoir, and she gives book talks to fifth- and sixth-graders.


“Working in a Catholic school afforded me the opportunity to know and work with sensitive, talented people,” said Herrington. “(There was) encouragement of creativity and the freedom to create programs that might pique student interests. These included many trips to the Library of Congress and museums of religious, historical, architectural and literary significance.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019