GENERATIONS: An institution of inspiration

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 25, 2022

Ramsey has served four decades as Burlington Elementary librarian

BURLINGTON — “It’s a dream job,” Harriette Ramsey said of her more than four decades as librarian for Burlington Elementary School.

A familiar face to multiple generations of students, Ramsey first took the position in 1978, following a tenure at the Chesapeake branch of Briggs Lawrence County Public library.

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“When I first started, they wanted to pay me to read,” she said, describing the position as “a utopia.” Ramsey said her job is to get children interested in books and inspired by the subject

Burlington Elementary School librarian Harriette Ramsey runs the table at a drive-thru lunch pick-up event at the school for Veterans Day in 2021. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

matter. “That way, they’re more prone to read,” she said.

Popular books over her time have included the Harry Potter series of novels and those dealing with sports and biographies. “Stories of other people’s lives are some of the most popular,” Ramsey said.

A member of New Hope Baptist Church in her native Ashland, Kentucky, Ramsey has been committed to community on both sides of the river, serving as founder and first president of the Concerned Citizens of Burlington.

For her work in the community Ramsey was named to the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in 2014 and was honored as the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce’s Servant of the Year in 2012.

Concerned Citizens of Burlington founder and president resident Harriette Ramsey looks over plans for a sewer construction project in this 1985 photo. (The Ironton Tribune | File photo)

That commitment to others can be seen at the school, where she has served as an organizer of the school’s annual Veterans Day program, one of the most extensive in the county’s schools, in which veterans from the community are invited as guests and treated to patriotic songs from students, while the students in turn hear inspiring words from one who served.

When discussing the program last year, Ramsey said one of the aims of that event is to show students a possible path they can

take through military service. “We try to do something different,” she said of the presentations, which have been going on for about a decade. “Because there are lot of things these kids don’t get to see or hear about.”

Ramsey has also worked to book speakers for the students at the school, such as in February when Mike Pleasant, a retired South Point physical education teacher and former WVU football player, spoke to the students for Black History Month.

One of the traditions for Burlington Elementary School’s librarian is to feature an exhibit on Black History Month, featuring items loaned by Suzanne Howard, a graduate of the school and the South Point district. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

The school has also regularly hosted a display for Black History Month, featuring items loaned by Ramsey’s friend, Suzanne Howard, a Burlington alumni, who provides dolls, stamps and other items of prominent Black Americans. Ramsey supplements the display with books on the featured individuals.

One of the things Ramsey remembers from her time at the school is starting and running the Pointer Pups TV channel. “It started in the backroom,” she said of the broadcasts, which featured school news, menus and speakers.

Bill Christian has been serving as interim principal at the school for the last several months, coming from a job as assistant principal at South Point Elementary.

He described Ramsey as invaluable to the school and the district. “She’s like a living legend of the community,” he said. “So many who have went through Burlington know her.”

Burlington Elementary School librarian Harriette Ramsey is the chief organizer of the school’s annual Veterans Day program, one of the most extensive in the county, which features local veterans and speakers from the region. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Christian points to her work with Backpack Blessings, in which food items are sent home to children in need.

He said Ramsey regularly reminds him of the program and that she sits by the door as students leave for the day, handing out the items. Christian said Ramsey refers the students as “her kids” and is always “looking out for them.”

With such a tenure dedicated to the school, Ramsey said she often sees former students who have now grown up, gone to the college and started careers.

She said one of the early things she teaches children is a “finger clap,” a quieter way to applaud after a book is read. And she says she is often reminded of it by the students many years later.

“They always remember that and they remember me,” she said.