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With tears glistening in her eyes, former children’s librarian Sherry Bogard said farewell to “her kids,” hugging as many of the crowd of 50 children as she could Wednesday at her last story time session at Clear Creek Park.
Bogard has been conducting a story time hour at the park each Wednesday since late June, when she was fired from the Shelby County Public Library in late June.
Several people in the community expressed outrage, and even wrote to The Sentinel-News in support of Bogard, who, despite being named the state’s top children’s librarian in 2011, was dismissed after an altercation with Executive Director Pam Federspiel.
Neither Bogard nor Federspiel would comment on the specifics of the situation, and late last month Bogard filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the library and Federspiel.
On Wednesday, while sitting at a picnic table at the Colonel Sanders pavilion at Clear Creek Park, where her last story hour took place, Bogard only would say that it was “personal.”
“Don’t you doubt that,” she said.
Bogard had not been allowed to speak on her own behalf at the meeting of the library board at which she was terminated. And it was several days before she was allowed access to her personal belongings at the library.
Children who had participated in her programs at the library flocked to her readings at the park, and this last story time was an emotional one, with parents presenting Bogard with a gift, as children chanted, “We love you, Miss Sherry!”
“This is from all of us parents, because we just want you to know how much we appreciate you and how much we are going to miss you from the bottom of our hearts,” said Kerri Cinotto, one of Bogard’s most outspoken supporters, as she handed a tearful Bogard a small gift bag.
Bogard took a few moments after that before she could continue with her storytelling.
“This is just heart-wrenching,” she said.
Bogard, a 10-year employee of the library, beat out 119 other librarians around the state in 2011, to receive the Miss Pickle Award, naming her the top children’s’ librarian in the state, an award for which she was nominated by none other than Federspiel, who cited Bogard’s “superb rapport with children.”
That rapport has been evident from the start of Bogard’s storytelling venture at the park, with large crowds numbering in the hundreds turning out for each event.
Bogard said that kind of support has meant a lot to her.
“We have had wonderful turnouts,” she said, glancing out at the sea of faces that numbered more than 100. “We have had some wonderful sponsors, including, McDonald’s, Little Caesars, APEX and Lowe’s, who have provided refreshments and other items.”
Bogard, whose suit (she has retained Amanda Walker of the Zoppoth Law Firm in Louisville) alleges that she was fired without cause, said she has been looking for work, but so far has not found anything. It had been her intention to retire from the library, she said.
“I built that bookmobile program up from a part-time thing to full-time, and I took the library places it never thought it would go,” she said. “And these kids” – she paused to look out over the crowd – “just to have been able to have been a part of their lives for as long as I have been, well, it’s been a real gift.”
When asked if she would consider continuing her story telling on a volunteer basis, as she has been doing at the park, she answered without hesitation.
“I would be happy and honored to come and read to them at any time, in any setting, whether it be here, at a church, a daycare, a school, or wherever,” she said.
Johnna Warkentine, 11, gave Bogard a big hug at the conclusion of the story hour.
“Miss Sherry is special; she got everybody in our school [Clear Creek Elementary] to come to the summer reading program,” she said.
Her mother, Marcy Warkentine, echoed that sentiment.
“She came here with enthusiasm, with interesting ideas and with creativity,” she said. “She put her heart and soul into this program. What she is to this community cannot be measured. What happened is just heartbreaking.”
Bogard said her faith and the support of the children and her parents have carried her through this difficult time.
“They help keep my spirits up,” she said, smiling at the group. “And I have done a lot of praying. I have asked for the grace to be able to forgive.”