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Meet Karen Knox: Orion Township's Library Director



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Library Director Karen Knox is working on a new integrated library system. Photo by Olivia Shumaker (click for larger version)
August 01, 2012 - By Olivia Shumaker

Review Intern

The public library is full of books, information and all around fun, but someone has to keep track of it all—which is where Karen Knox, Director of the Orion Public Library, comes in.

Knox started as director of the library last February from the Rochester Public Library, where she worked for six years. So far, she has been working on the good things left behind by the previous director—who was at the library for 31 years—in addition to budgeting, new purchases, and hiring. Knox's job consists of various duties to make sure the library runs without a hitch, including supporting the staff, making sure purchased materials work with the existing collection of items, and ensuring that the librarians on staff are prepared to enforce library policy.

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"I love Orion Township. The community is very family-oriented, there are lots of kids, lots of support for the schools, lots of fun stuff that they do down in the Village," Knox said.

No day is identical for Knox, and no day is simply average. "They're all different," she said. A lot of time is spent meeting with people—representatives of community organizations, members of the staff, or just a customer with a question. Right now, Knox dealing with budget season—the library's new fiscal year begins in January. Knox is also busy meeting once a month with the Friends of the Library (the library's main fundraising body) and the Library Board to budget and plan in their respective areas.

"I was pleasantly surprised that the library has as much support as it does in the community," Knox said. "I've gotten a lot of very positive feedback."

Lately, Knox has been occupied with an improvement to the library: a new integrated library system. The system in place now has not been updated since 2004, and Knox looks forward to the upgrade and, "hopefully being able to add more technology, so that we can have mobile access to our catalog," she said. The new system, which Knox hopes to have in place by the end of the year, will help make the library more interactive to customers while providing numerous new features to library staff, such as greater ease in adding new purchases to the library catalog.

Knox is also keeping track of the library's Summer Reading program, a program running from June to August which encourages kids of all ages as well as adults to keep reading during the summer. Participants track how much they read over the course of the summer and, depending on how much they read, can be entered into drawings for prizes. The kids Summer Reading program concludes August 11 with a juggler performance, while the teenagers' Summer Reading program finishes on August 3 with a Library Lock-In, in which the participants come at eight o'clock to spend the night in the library.

"I hope that we can continue to have the library as a kind of the center of the community, a place where people can come to meet other people, learn new things, learn how to do things on the computer," Knox said.

Ultimately, the people aspect of the director job is what matters most to Knox. She always tries to walk around the library a few times each day to see how things are going and talk to visitors. During the Summer Reading kickoff, Knox was stopped several times by parents and participants thanking her and the library for hosting a program like Summer Reading.

"We've been able to watch people that have been laid off due to the recession come in, use our computers, find new jobs, and better their lives as a result," Knox said.

Ultimately, Knox hopes that the library can continue to have a positive influence on the community, assisting in individual transitional periods—whether they are unemployed community members or young, struggling readers—that come to benefit the area as a whole.

"It's neat to have an environment like this where everybody is just trying to make the world a better place in our little community," Knox said. "It's still kind of new for me, but I think it's a wonderful community. I look forward to continuing the work."

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