By Debbie Adams
Kimberly Burnette-Dean has been named branch librarian of the Vinton Public Library. She is a familiar face to library patrons as she has been with the Vinton Library for the past 12 years. She started out as a children’s library assistant, and then became a library assistant in circulation and adult programming at the old library on Washington Avenue. Just before that library closed in 2015, she was named senior library assistant.
Burnette-Dean is originally from the Meadows of Dan in Patrick County and graduated from Patrick County High School in Stuart. She says her family has been in the Patrick/Floyd County area for at least seven generations.
She was accepted into the music program at Radford University, but in her freshman year, changed her major. She graduated with a degree in History with minors in Appalachian Studies and English.
“My original plan was to be a band director, but after changing my major to history, I was unsure what I was going to do with the history degree, but I knew that I did not want to be a teacher,” said Burnette-Dean. “I did end up using my history degree by working at living history sites for the National Park Service and at Virginia’s Explore Park.
“I worked for the National Park Service for five years at historic sites on the Blue Ridge Parkway,” she said. “I had a previous co-worker from the National Park Service who started working at Virginia’s Explore Park before it opened in 1993. He mentioned to me that the historic areas were going to be opening to the public in July 1994.
“I was very interested, so I sent in a resume and was hired,” she added. “I started as the interpreter at the Hofauger House. By the time the park closed in 2007, I was the Historic Sites supervisor. I also interpreted the Kemp’s Ford Schoolhouse, the Sloan Gristmill, the Wray Barn, and the Houtz Barn.”
She was also the lead animal caretaker of the historic breeds at the park. When the park was closed in the wintertime, Burnette-Dean went out to schools and presented historical programs in classrooms, as well as conducted research on the historical buildings at the park for new historic programs and on several grant-funded research projects.
“When Virginia’s Explore Park closed down, I was fortunate to find a position with Roanoke County as a library assistant at the Vinton branch,” she said. “The idea of working in a library had been with me for quite a few years because I spent a lot of time in libraries conducting research into local history and genealogy as part of my job as Historic Site supervisor at Explore Park.”
In May 2020, Burnette-Dean will graduate from Valdosta State University with a Master of Library and Information Science degree.
The Vinton community has benefitted from her wide range of interests, which have evolved into library programs.
When Jack Ferguson came up with the idea of establishing the Roanoke Valley Dulcimer Group, he asked her to assist in getting the group started at the Vinton Library since she plays dulcimers. In fact, she is an accomplished musician and has won second place at the Fiddler’s Convention in Galax. The group meets on the third Saturday of each month at the library.
“I haven’t performed in public for several years now, mainly because of going to graduate school, which has caused me to sideline most of my hobbies until I graduate,” she said. “After I graduate in May, I plan on getting back into playing the dulcimer, along with the piano, and hammered dulcimer.”
“I own quite a few other instruments that I would like to devote more time to learning, like the fiddle and guitar,” she added. “I have also conducted grant-funded research into the history of the dulcimer, which has been referenced in some leading books on the history of the dulcimer as well as in a dulcimer exhibit at the Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College. I have more raw data that I need to analyze and add to that research. I need more hours in the day!”
She is also responsible for the Yack & Yard classes at the Vinton branch, which have spread now to other branches.
“Right after I quit doing children’s programs, I was trying to come up with some ideas for programs for adults.” Burnette-Dean said. “I knew that we had quite a few patrons who checked out knitting and crocheting books, plus there were spinners in the area, but no meet-up group where ideas could be shared, and where one could find friendly and free support.
“I knew that fiber groups were popular at other libraries in the country, so Yack & Yarn was the first program that I added to the calendar,” she said. “I also had a successful Appalachian Series of programs that included local Appalachian authors, the history of quilting, heirloom gardening, movies set in Appalachian, and folk music.
“I am constantly watching the news, reading the newspaper, and following various online groups to see what is new or trending” she continued. “One thing that caught my eye was adult coloring. I remember going to my supervisor and asking if I could start an adult coloring group. She looked at me like I might be a bit crazy but gave me her blessing. So ‘64 Shades of Vinton’ came into being which was really popular for a couple of years.”
Her duties in Vinton will be to “perform professional, supervisory, and administrative work directing the day-to-day operations of a branch library. Another component is implementing programs and activities that work towards meeting the goals of the library system and overall county goals. Of course, most importantly we need to meet the information needs of the community.
“I am really interested in forming partnerships with local businesses and the Town of Vinton,” said Burnette-Dean. “I would like for the library to have a presence at local events because I think there are many people in the community who are unaware of all of the programs and services that the library has to offer. I would also like to work together with local businesses to bring programs to the library that would be mutually beneficial for library patrons as well as the businesses.
“I love Vinton!” Burnette-Dean said. “I have made many connections within the community over the years. Many of the children that came to my story times 12 years ago still visit the library. Some come home from college for the holidays or they are in high school and it is always wonderful when they stop by the library and remember me and coming to story time.
“Many of our library patrons come into the library on a regular basis and it is almost like they are family,” she said. “I would really miss Vinton if I were to leave. When I was growing up, I lived in the country, 20 miles from the nearest town in any direction, so there was always a deep sense of community there, and I get that same feeling in Vinton.”
“I’m pleased that Kimberly Burnette-Dean accepted the position of branch librarian of Vinton,” said Shari Henry, director of Library Services for Roanoke County. “She has served in the acting manager position there twice and brings with her lots of managerial and vibrant programming experience. She’s been with RCPL for over a decade; before that, she worked for Roanoke County’s Parks and Rec Department.
“She’s received two merit awards from the county, was the recipient of a Roanoke Valley Library Association Scholarship and served as a lead researcher on two Virginia Foundation for Humanities grants,” Henry added. “She has earned the trust of the staff at Vinton over the years and I expect to see a lot of great things in the branch’s future with Kimberly at the helm.”