The Storyteller: Kay Bivens

In her role as school librarian at Meeker Elementary School, Bivens often dresses in costume that coordinate with the books she presents to the students.
In her role as school librarian at Meeker Elementary School, Bivens often dresses in costume that coordinate with the books she presents to the students.

MEEKER I It is probably common practice to take for granted all that our educators do. In our unfortunate situation with our school this last year, amazing people stepped up to make things happen for the good of the children. One of those educators is school librarian Kay Bivens. With her “bookmobile” bus, she has made a tremendous positive out of a negative, and continued to provide the benefits of the school library to students.
Kay Bivens (Barney) has lived in Rio Blanco County her whole life. She grew up 17 miles from Rangely on the White River and moved to Meeker in 1950. She was graduated from Meeker High School in 1961 and married Bob Bivens soon after. The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this summer.
They began their family in 1962 with the birth of their daughter Pam. Thomas was born in 1964, Edgar in 1966, Nancy in 1967, Lisa in 1975 and Molly in 1979.  Bob and Kay now have 17 grandchildren.
Their children were very active in 4-H, just as Kay was growing up. In fact, she and her brother Lynn had the first grand and reserve champion steers in the county fair. They were the first two steers in the club at that time. With six other children in her family, she learned to enjoy working. She feels very strongly about the benefits of the 4-H program.
“Every kid should be in 4-H to learn responsibility.” She set an example for others, serving as a leader in a variety of clubs—from cooking, sewing and ceramics, to entomology and livestock—while her kids were growing up. Whatever her children were involved in, she worked hard to make it a success.
Kay began baking “spud nuts” and bread and selling these items as a way to earn extra income in 1970, then decided buy what was then the Stillwater Gallery to create an opportunity to do more art work. She began a framing and T-shirt business called Rainbow Frames on Main Street in 1978 and ran the business for 15 years. This served as a way for her to be involved with her children as well as continue to express her creative side. She served as president of the local art club until it dissipated. She also found time to serve as the PTO president for 12 years.
Throughout her entire life Kay has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She has served as a Sunday school teacher, secretary, Relief Society president and librarian.
She also loves to be around kids and that love is what led her to a career as a librarian and advocate for reading. In her 20 years working for the school district she has made reading fun for the kids. She works with children in preschool through fifth grade, finding time to see every student at least once a week to share her stories and bring those tales to life for the students, even dressing up to coordinate with the stories she shares.
Her favorite thing, she said, is when “kids get so excited because they get reading.”
It is her goal to get the kids interested in reading, no matter what type of book they choose.
Her favorite book was written by her father, John Barney.
Kay works diligently to create programs for her students. She has done this for 20 years, requiring her to change the programs every year to bring new ideas to the children. She was instrumental in starting the FFA Farm Days about 15 years ago and enjoys having local people from different agencies come talk to the kids. The BLM, Forest Service, DOW and Soil Conservation District, along with local authors, make each week new and educational.
This year she used her creativity and effort to give rise to the “bookmobile” to serve the elementary students throughout the three buildings. The bus she helped decorate and stock has nearly 4,000 books on board and is one of the students’ favorite things to see coming to their school. This is one of Kay’s many creative ideas, another is the Colorado History Truck she has even taken to other schools to share stories and excite new readers.
Kay’s husband Bob worked on different ranches through the years and for the Town of Meeker in 1993 for about nine years.
“Bob is my anchor while I am soaring around. He just wonders what’s coming next,” she said of her spouse.
Their children have followed in her footsteps. Tom is a principal in Penn Valley, Calif., and his wife Janet is a teacher. Daughter Lisa is a school bus driver and her husband Ron Ruckman is a teacher in Pinedale, Wyo. Daughter Molly is heading in that direction, too, volunteering in her children’s schools in Parachute, Colo. Pam is a librarian in Gypsum, Colo., and Nancy is now in the district technology department in Green River, Wyo. Edgar owned his own business and now works for Moody Construction here in Meeker.
Through the years Kay has witnessed a great deal of change in the school systems. Paperwork and tight schedules and structure limit students’ ability to utilize the library for leisurely reading. But one thing that remains unchanged is the kids’ excitement for Kay’s storytelling. She sees former students who still remember her stories and her costumes in their adulthood. She receives countless letters thanking her for her endless effort during their vital years in education. The Meeker school system is certainly lucky to have someone so passionate about kids and reading. Her hard work and creativity has brought stories to life for many students for two decades. Her efforts have been priceless for kids growing up in a time when the art of great storytelling is a rare thing to see.