Cardinal Stafford librarian celebrates two decades of service

Lyn Cotton and her fellow staff members at the Cardinal Stafford Theological Library will never forget the summer the library’s smoke alarm went off.

Perhaps it was the cause of the alarm that etched the incident into their memories. As it turns out, seminarians at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary were dusting the books and shelves in the library basement, said Cotton.

“They raised such a cloud of dust that the smoke alarms went off,” she said, cracking a smile.

Cotton, a library assistant at Cardinal Stafford, has truly seen it all.

And although she will retire in May — just one month before her 20th anniversary at the library — her dedication will continue as she serves as a weekly volunteer.

“The fact that she wants to come back says a lot about the kind of place that we are, but also the kind of person she is,” said librarian Tamara Conley.

“Some people would close the door and get out of here,” she added. “They wouldn’t want to see it again. [Cotton] cares about this place, and she cares about the people here.”

Library director Stephen Sweeney is grateful for Cotton’s service and looks forward to the next 20 in her volunteer capacity.

“The library has an amazing, dedicated staff that work to serve the needs of the seminary community while being available to the larger archdiocesan community and the public who find us,” said Sweeney.

“Lyn has been here at the library since before St. John Vianney Theological Seminary was instituted in 1999, which gives her a unique perspective on our history,” he added.

For Conley, working with someone as loyal as Cotton is an immense help.

“The continuity is amazing,” she said. “To know that she’s seen things from the beginning projects to end is really, really beneficial for us. You can’t put a price on that.”

Many features of the library have kept Cotton coming back each year.

“The place itself is just gorgeous,” said Cotton. “The library is the gem of the seminary and the chapel is the jewel.”

Cotton is a member of the Protestant Church, which has made working at a Catholic library unique, she said.

“I really didn’t know much about Catholics when I started,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about the Catholic faith.”

Between the library’s faith-based atmosphere and the people she works with, Cotton has always found that the positive experiences outweigh the challenges she’s faced over the years.

“I first came in as a part time archivist,” said Cotton. “At that time when I first got here, we had one computer.”

Besides the technological advancements that have occurred since 1998, Cotton has also taken on a variety of roles at the library.

She has experience working with archives, cataloguing, and managing volunteers who come in each week to help with a multitude of tasks.

Whether she’s covering a book or helping a volunteer, Cotton makes the library run smoothly, said Conley.

“She sits quietly in the back and holds everything together,” she said. “She does a million things. I couldn’t even tell you all the small things she does.”

Through it all, Cotton has built a relationship with the seminarians who pass through the library’s doors each day.

Some of them come back years down the road to say “hello,” and others end up working at the seminary, she said.

“That is really fun to have them go all the way through and then come back to us and help out,” said Cotton.

“I don’t know the ones now as well as I didn’t when we first began because there were a lot fewer then,” she added. “But they’re all very polite and good guys.”

For Conley, the thing that makes the Cardinal Stafford Theological Library special is also what might inspire someone like Cotton to volunteer after retirement.

“I think the sense of community that we have here — all bonded by a love for Christ — is what keeps people coming back,” she said.

Cotton admits she’ll continue to look forward to coming to the library as a volunteer each week.

“I’ve just had so much fun,” she said. “It’s just been a pleasant, holy place to work.”

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.