By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Winsted’s new head librarian, Mary Henke, has always loved books and sharing them with others, and considers working in the library a perfect career choice for her.
“I love my job,” Henke said. “I like working with people that enjoy books and in the setting of the library. It’s a nice community resource and kind of the center of where things are going on.”
Henke’s job satisfaction is doubled because she has not only been Winsted’s head librarian since Oct. 6, but she has been Hutchinson’s head librarian since 1983.
Both libraries are part of the Pioneerland Library System (PLS), which is a regional public library system with 32 member libraries in nine counties in west central Minnesota.
Four of those libraries are in McLeod County Brownton, Glencoe, Hutchinson, and Winsted.
Henke’s dual-administrative role is the result of PLS’s current policy to consolidate head librarian positions whenever retirement leaves a position open. The practice is to help cut expenses.
When Winsted head librarian Sharon Noerenberg announced she was retiring, Henke said she wasn’t surprised to learn she would be the head librarian at Winsted, as well as Hutchinson, after watching other Pioneerland libraries go through a similar process.
“I knew I would be the logical choice because of geographics,” Henke said.
“I saw the situation in Litchfield when the Litchfield librarian, Beth Kronk, took over Grove City’s library and Dassel’s as their librarians retired. Then, Jackie Fountain in Glencoe took over Brownton’s library when their head librarian retired.”
Because of concerns with possible reduced library hours, and a decrease in services and programs, Winsted City Council appealed the consolidation before Noerenberg retired Aug. 31. However, the appeal was denied by Pioneerland with a promise to work with city officials and the Winsted Library Board to support its vision for the library’s future.
It’s Henke’s intention to follow through with that promise.
During the city’s appeal process, Henke served as interim head librarian for Winsted from Sept. 1 until her formal appointment Oct. 6, and during that time, Henke said she was impressed with the value placed on Winsted’s library by city officials and by board members.
“They see the library as an important part of the quality of life for their family and children,” Henke said. “That message keeps being repeated over and over.”
There will be budget constraints, but Henke is waiting to hear back from Winsted on what their “wish list” is for the future, which might include more library hours, another computer, or expanding library space.
One idea that was suggested to Henke by one of the head librarians who was part of a consolidation, was to have a survey done to understand what the community would like to see happen in the library.
“I thought that was an interesting idea,” Henke said, and she added that she would like to talk it over with library assistant Lisa Ebert, who will be the one handling the day-to-day operations at the library.
Ebert will be the “face of the Winsted Public Library” as far as the general public is concerned, and Henke and Ebert will be working out the details about the extent of their individual responsibilities.
Ebert, who has worked at the Winsted Public Library since November 1999, and has her Masters of Library Science, sees the new change as a good one for the library.
“I think that her (Henke) years of expertise as a Pioneerland librarian will be a good compliment to my knowledge and understanding of Winsted and our patrons,” Ebert said.
“I am looking forward to working with her and keeping the Winsted Public Library a valuable community resource. I believe that she will bring a fresh perspective, especially coming from a larger library.”
Henke has been given the key to Winsted’s library, and had a tour to learn where everything is kept. The software and circulation system is the same at both libraries.
Traveling to Winsted will be on a needs basis for Henke, but most of the ongoing business will be handled over the phone and through e-mails.
“That may change depending on what’s going on,” Henke said. “I will always be looking for the best way to do things.”
As far as losing library services and programs, Henke doesn’t see that happening. As she reviews programs and funding for one library, she will be re-creating it for the other library.
“I think the folks that use the library regularly will not see a big difference,” Henke said
But, Henke did point out that although the libraries will share basic services, each library should be unique.
“Winsted’s library should be different than Hutchinson’s library because we have different communities,” Henke said. “And the programs and services offered and the collection of books should be what the patrons are asking for.”
According to statistics on Winsted’s library, Henke called it a very busy library, with an estimated 23,400 visits annually.
For 2010, its circulation (items checked out) was 26,727.
Winsted Library is located at 180 Main Avenue West and is open six days a week Monday and Wednesday 2 to 7 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Friday 2 to 5 p.m.; and Saturday 10 a.m. to noon.
To contact the library, call or fax to (320) 485-3909. The library can also be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Storytime is Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. which ends Tuesday, Nov. 29. Spring Storytime will start in February and run through the middle of May.
Children of all ages are welcome.
The library’s annual silent auction is scheduled for Friday and Saturday Dec. 3 and 4. Donations for the auction can be dropped off at the library.
Mary Henke has seen many library changes
Henke has lived in Hutchinson her entire life.
Her father was an English teacher and she grew up surrounded by books. She knew she wanted a career that included “that type of world,” but didn’t want to be correcting papers late into the night like she had seen her father do. She decided a good career choice for her would be a degree in library science.
She attended the College of St. Catherine’s in St. Paul where she graduated in 1970 with a double major in English and library science.
In 1979, she started working evenings in Hutchinson’s library while she raised her young family.
She has seen technology gradually make changes to the library.
“One of the benefits of technology is that we can handle an increase in work volume with the same number of staff,” Henke said.
“Everything (technology) has come in stages, and I have found it to be challenging and really interesting.”
The newest addition to the library is downloadable books. The service became available through Pioneerland in July of this year. Downloadable books are available on the Pioneerland website at www.pioneerland.lib.mn.us.
Henke said she is grateful for Ebert’s comfort level with technology and was impressed with her having put the Winsted Public Library on Facebook as well as setting up a Twitter account @Winsted_Library.
“So, she is able to post almost daily what is going on in the library,” Henke said.