By Roz Kohls
Mary Ackerman, branch manager of the Cokato Public Library, has heard retirement often is so busy, retirees wonder how they found time to work before.
“I’m hoping to get there,” Ackerman said last Monday before her retirement party.
Ackerman’s final day is Friday, Aug. 29. She already has many plans for what she will do next. She’d like to get a recumbent bike, she said.
Ackerman enjoys being outdoors. Usually she’d walk to her 25-hour-a-week job from her home on 8th Street in Cokato, she added.
Ackerman also plans to spend time with her two grandchildren and her parents. Ackerman’s mother is 92, she said.
In addition, she intends to do “fun stuff” on the computer, quilting, volunteer at Cokato Elementary School, and possibly help out at the local food shelf, Ackerman added.
Ackerman’s husband, Mike, a barber, also is retired. He is the reason Ackerman, who is originally from Wabasso, Minn., came to Cokato in 1971. There was a barber shop for sale here, she said.
Before Ackerman started at the library in 1987, she was an aide at Cokato Elementary School. Her mother was a school teacher also, and passed on her love of reading to her. Ackerman remembers reading all the Wizard of Oz books, as well as Kay Tracy mysteries, she said.
She retained her interest in fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries over the years, and recently became interested in biographies, Ackerman said.
Ackerman considers reading a wonderful pastime, and fondly remembers reading while sitting in the little chairs at her hometown library when she was growing up.
Ackerman also hopes library patrons in Cokato associated the library with positive experiences. Patron service, in which she helps readers and researchers with their questions, was the best part of the job, she said.
It also was the most challenging, however. Sometimes readers asked for books, but they couldn’t remember the title. Other times, patrons asked for an obscure book that was self-published and not on any list.
Ackerman remembers one young man in particular who asked for instructions on how to build a car, step-by-step, including where to get each part or tool needed. There are many how-to books. Books that break down the process of building a car into such small steps are few and far between, she said.
“Great River Regional Library is a great institution to work for,” Ackerman said, adding the regional library came through for her many times when she received tough questions and requests.
A man wanted a cut-out from a magazine about wood working, printed years ago, for example, and the regional library in St. Cloud located it for her, she said.
Patrons have a variety of requests. Some want DVDs, time on the computers and reading for entertainment. However, it was interesting how their requests reflected the times, she said.
When the economy is strained, for example, patrons asked for how-to books, or information on how to save money, Ackerman said.
Most of the time, though, Ackerman had requests for service that were enjoyable. When someone brought a book to the counter for check-out and it was about quilting, one of Ackerman’s favorite activities, “Oh my. We had a lot to talk about,” Ackerman said.
Sometimes the requests for service were downright funny. One patron returned a book late that was about stopping procrastination. Another time a little girl dropped her book in the snow. The book was about preventing carelessness, she said.
The person who takes Ackerman’s place as the branch manager of Cokato library will have different gifts.
“It will be a different place, but change is good,” Ackerman said.