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A new chapter for long-time librarian

Karen Simmons is the new director of Douglas County Library. Before taking on her new position, she was the children's librarian for 23 years.

When it comes to the qualifications for a great library director, Karen Simmons is a perfect fit.

Must love books. Check.

Must enjoy working with the public. Check.

Must enjoy detail-oriented work. Check.

Simmons is the new director of the Douglas County Library but she's a familiar face around there.

Over the last 23 years, Simmons has served as the children's librarian at the Douglas County Library.

In January, she stepped into the role of library director after serving as interim director for 13 months.

So far, there haven't been many surprises, she said, except one: "What surprised me is that I enjoy it as much as I do," Simmons said.

"I wasn't sure at first. I thought no way do I want that job, but now, after a few months, there's no way I'd want anyone else to do this job," she added.

Fulfilling library patrons' requests is the best part of the job so far, Simmons said. Knowing what adult fiction to order has been the biggest challenge so far.

Wadena to

Glenwood to Alexandria

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.

"I thought it would be fun to specialize in something and work in a bigger library," she recalled.

And she's been there ever since working with children.

Over the years Simmon's hosted hundreds of story hours and watched thousands of children experience the magic of books.

Changes at the library

Lately, Simmons and the library staff have focused much of their attention on relocating some of the library's collections to better accommodate library patrons.

For example, the large print section has been moved to the front of the library where it's easier to access. The Internet has forced them to downsize the reference materials so DVDs and audio books have replaced that square footage. Also, there are far fewer magazines and it's likely paperback books will be relocated to the periodical space.

The biggest change will be the addition of a youth librarian. Simmons said the new position will go beyond children's library needs to include teens.

"We'd like to provide more programming for teens, form a teen advisory board and more services for them," Simmons said.

During her time as director, Simmons said she wants to let more people know about everything that's available at the library, especially access from home.

The Douglas County Library's website provides links to an abundance of information portals - things like the Electronic Library of Minnesota, Tumble Books for children and MnKnows. Plus, did you know you can search and order materials from every library in the state? Log on to the library's website at to learn more.

"The past year has been a blur, but the library staff has been wonderful to work with and the library board and Friends of the Library, as well," Simmons said.

Simmons lives in Glenwood with her husband, Donald. They've been married 36 years and they have one son, Rob. He and his wife, Susan, have two children, Adam, 4, and Keegan, 1.

In one year at the Douglas County Library:

357,283 items are borrowed to be enjoyed at home, work or school.

201,319 adult items were borrowed.

155,286 children's items were borrowed.

15,101 books were provided to other libraries.

10,175 books were borrowed from other libraries.

1,701 preschoolers attend the 80 story hours.

481 students were introduced to the library through class visits.

20,431 people use the library computer lab.

354 children attend special library programs.

615 children attend the summer "Lunch Bunch" program.

3,641 people use the library's meeting rooms for a total of 719 1/2 hours.

20,427 total number of registered borrowers.

Amy Chaffins

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

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