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Tears and memories overflow at library

In response to the outpouring of support from the community, a memorial area honoring Douglas County Library Director Karen Simmons has been set up near the front desk. (Photo by Al Edenloff)

Sympathy and words of support for those who worked with Karen Simmons flowed into the Douglas County Library this week.

So much so that library staff set up a memorial area on the end of the front desk where Simmons spent a lot of time helping readers. It contains flowers, a photo and notepaper where library patrons can share their thoughts.

Simmons, who worked at the library for 25 years and served as director since 2009, died Monday morning in a foggy, two-vehicle crash near Glenwood.

"So many patrons have so many kind words and good things to say about Karen," said library worker Bobbi Jo Wiener.

"She touched so many lives, her own family, the library family, the community family," added Tammy Schmidt, another worker.

"And the schools," added co-worker Dawn Erickson. "It just extends outward from here. Everyone knew Karen."

Although she loved her job, Simmons was looking forward to retirement. It was just four months away, June 28. She was looking forward to spending more time with her husband, Don, and their two grandchildren.

Her retirement would have capped off a long and fulfilling career of helping others enjoy the wonderful world of books.

Instead, there will be a memorial service celebrating her life. It will take place today, Friday, at 10:30 a.m. at Glenwood United Parish.

Simmons started her library career in 1972 when she was an elementary school librarian in Wadena.

From there she moved to Glenwood, where she worked as Glenwood Public Library's director until 1987.

That same year, she took the children's librarian job at the Douglas County Library.

Over the years, Simmons hosted hundreds of story hours and watched thousands of children experience the magic of books.

She was named interim director of the library in October 2009 when long-time director Trish Conroy retired and was approved as director by the Douglas County Board in January 2011.

This week has been a difficult one for the 10 library workers reeling with the loss. They break up the somber mood by sharing stories about Simmons and her fun sense of humor.

"She brightened things up," recalled Schmidt. "She made meetings a lot of fun."

The library is also receiving extra help and support from Conroy, who has been sharing her expertise on the director duties that need to get done.

"Trish is stepping up to help us out," Schmidt said. "We're all pulling together."

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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