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Tech-savvy director leads library into future

Jake Odland is the new director of the Douglas County Library. He's an Alexandria native and currently, he's reading Book of Killowen, a mystery by Minnesota author Erin Hart. (Photo by Amy Chaffins)

Jake Odland is a smart, interesting, easy-going guy with a professional personality, the kind of person who creates a welcoming atmosphere.

That makes him a perfect fit for his new job as director of the Douglas County Library.

"It's been great. I hit the ground running," Odland said. "When I was an Alexandria resident, I pretty much grew up at the library, both the Carnegie and here. It was kind of coming back home. I've noticed some big changes in the community since I left in 2001 and I think the changes have been positive and I'm excited to see all the action and activity in the community and the library."

Odland grew up in Alexandria and graduated from Jefferson High School in 2001. He received a Master of Science in Library Information Science in library studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 2008. He majored in French for his undergraduate degree.

Before he started at Douglas County Library on May 28, Odland worked as head librarian for the Olivia and Renville public libraries in the Pioneerland Library System in West Central Minnesota.

Four weeks into the new job, so far so good, he has presented a preliminary 2014 library budget to the county board and started ordering books.

"Right now, I'm giving myself a 90-day period to really observe what's going on and come up with ideas. I want to get a feel for things. I don't want to be that person that comes in and says, 'OK, we're going to change things and do it my way, we're going to shift everything around, we're going to do this and that,'" he said.

"I knew the two directors before me [Karen Simmons and Trish Conroy] and I really respected their work. I want to keep the spirit of what they did for this library going but then get the chance to put my fingerprint on it, too."

Outreach is one of his first goals, to bring the library out into the community and the community into the library.

He said he's particularly interested in partnering with organizations that have similar goals and objectives, including museums, parks and groups.

"I hope we can work to support each other as we provide the best services to the county residents and those who use the library. By doing that, hopefully more programming and activities for people of all ages," Odland said.

In the meantime, he said it's his job to make sure everything runs smoothly, oversee day-to-day operations, be the face of the library to the county, both to the county board and people in the county, and, in general, "make sure bills are paid, lights work and doors get unlocked every day."


"I own a Kindle and a Nook, but they're pretty much for demonstration purposes. I also have a Samsung Galaxy smartphone and a Google tablet," Odland said. "I'm a gadget geek. I like to stay up on technology, gadgets and all of that."

Despite being technologically savvy, Odland said he has a slight preference for traditional books and currently, he's reading Book of Killowen, a hardcover mystery by Minnesota author Erin Hart.

He said there's been a pretty seismic shift to the digital resources and he's prepared and trained to continue navigating the digital shift that's sweeping libraries nationwide.

"The general trend is away from the printed paper resources toward whatever the digital future might be. However, I don't see printed books going away, especially in outstate Minnesota, for a while because you really go with what the preference of the patron is. But more and more people are bringing in more and more devices and wanting access on whatever [electronic device] they have."

Next week, library staff will host three sessions for e-reader owners to get better acquainted with their devices. See front page information box.


Of course, Odland said he enjoys reading, but he also enjoys traveling.

His undergraduate major in college was French. "I've been to France a few times, taught English there and studied abroad there."

An opportunity to refurbish donated computers during college landed him the opportunity to travel to the West African island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, where he taught an introduction to computers class, speaking a unique blend of English, French and Portuguese languages.

He said he plans to do move traveling again once things settle into place, but for now, he's enjoying being home again.

"I'm really excited about being back out on the water. I like to sail and be out in the boat. I enjoyed my time in Olivia, but it's nice being closer to family and the lakes."

Odland's parents are Deb and Mike Odland. Deb is a retired teacher and Mike works at Pete's County Market.


•Tuesday, June 25 from 4 to 6 p.m. - Kindle class. Bring your device, laptop and cords. Staff will help you download e-books from the library. Pre-registration is requested, but not required. Call (320) 762-3014 to register.

•Wednesday, June 26 from 4 to 6 p.m. - Nook class. Bring your device, laptop and cords. Staff will help you download e-books from the library. Pre-registration is requested, but not required. Call (320) 762-3014 to register.

•Thursday, June 27 from 4 to 6 p.m. - iPad/Android class. Bring your device and learn how to download e-books from the library. Pre-registration is requested, but not required. Call (320) 762-3014 to register.


On Tuesday, June 25 at 10:30 a.m. at the Douglas County Library, the Grammy award-winning group, The Okee Dokee Brothers, will perform. The group performs children's music and it promises to be a popular event jam-packed with entertainment for kids of all ages.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133