Lynden Spotlight: Librarian Lori Hortegas

Lynden Spotlight: Librarian Lori Hortegas
Posted on 01/12/2017
Stuffed inside Lori Hortegas’ head, Isom Elementary’s librarian, sits roughly 500 student names. One name for each individual at the school. That’s part of the joy of working as a librarian, the former classroom teacher says, getting a chance to know over 500 students.

Beyond building a relationship with every student in the building, Hortegas also enjoys instilling a love of story. “Reading teachers teach children how to read and librarians teach why to read,” she says, “helping them get an enthusiasm for reading. When you are enthusiastic it helps you become a better reader.”

Hortegas, a Seattle native who first taught in the Bellingham School District until the oldest of her four daughters was about to be born, has been the librarian at Isom for the past eight years. “I stayed at home for 15 years to raise our (her husband is Steve) four daughters,” she says. “Our youngest was in fourth grade at Isom and I saw that a librarian position had come up and I had been working part-time at the public library and I thought it would be a neat fit to be back in the school.”

A neat fit it is. “Oh yeah, it is a fun job,” she says. “I think the love of stories and books is really important for all school librarians.”

Hortegas makes a habit of reading to students out loud—she says even the fifth graders get excited about the practice—both to encourage the students in reading, but also to help them improve their imagination and help them hear good language that can make a way into their writing.

Of course Hortegas also teaches students the mechanics of a library and helps students find a personally meaningful book. “I make sure they know if they checked out a book they didn’t like they can come back and get something different,” she says. “If I don’t like something I get something different so I don’t force them to read (something they don’t like). It encourages kids to read on.”

Hortegas also tries to bring the best writing into the library, participating in two contests this year. In one, she reads 20 picture books to K-2 students selected by statewide librarians as part of the Children’s Book Choice Award. The students listen to them all and vote on their favorite. This year she added a second similar contest, the Towner Award for non-fiction books for grades 3-5.

“Hearing a well-written story that librarians thought were the cream of the crop allows me to bounce off those to do some library lessons,” she says.

When not bouncing between stories at Isom, Hortegas says she is still first and foremost a mom, even though her daughters are 17, 19, 21 and 23 years old. The two oldest each had a wedding this summer and the three oldest now live away from Whatcom County (her youngest is a junior at Lynden High School). But when not mothering, Hortegas stays involved in her church and gets her hands dirty in her garden.

“It is relaxing to pull weeds, to have some power over the weeds,” she jokes. Whether planting, transplanting, growing vegetables or choosing the right flowers, Hortegas enjoys all things gardening, even if Steve and Lori also plan to up their quotient of explorative day trips.

Just like Lori explores flowers and the countryside, she encourages Isom students to explore their imagination through reading.