By Gabe Licht
DELANO, MN Since high school, Carol Plocher wanted to be a librarian, though she was encouraged to consider a different career path.
“My high school counselor said I’d never get a job as a librarian,” Plocher said.
She proved her counselor wrong, first becoming a library assistant in Delano 23 years ago, before becoming the branch manager of Delano Public Library 20 years ago.
Her work at the local library and in the community has not gone unnoticed, as she has been named the Delano Citizen of the Year by the General Federated Women’s Club of Delano.
“I was totally surprised that anyone would nominate me,” Plocher said.
Not only did someone nominate Plocher, but 15 individuals wrote nomination letters on her behalf.
One letter writer chronicled Plocher’s entire career at the local library.
“Carol began to reach out to individuals and groups immediately to make them feel welcome, and yes, also, so they would use the library,” the nominator wrote of Plocher’s first days in charge of the library.
That nominator also credited Plocher for helping the library thrive when it moved to its current location.
“The library had just moved to its new location and I personally thought Carol would ‘rest on her laurels’ and enjoy this new accomplishment,” the nominator wrote. “But, she didn’t! She used the new space as a tool to reach out more.”
The nominator noted that Plocher often volunteers on behalf of the library.
“Cooking is Carol’s hobby, so naturally much of her ‘visible’ volunteer work centers around it,” the nominator wrote. “About 10 years ago, she volunteered to teach a cookie-making class as a Delano Community Ed option and, four years ago, taught another bread-making class when asked by the Franklin-Delano Historical Society.”
The nominator spoke highly of Plocher’s “personal campaign to make sure all the youth in the community knew about the treasures of their public library,” which includes presentations to local students, a pitch to promote summer programming, and work with local teachers.
“She shows a true interest in the children, calling many by name,” another nominator wrote. “She has a gentle, caring, and welcoming way of interacting with everyone.”
Interacting with others includes sending “Get Well,” “Sympathy,” and “Congratulations” cards to patrons, other nominators noted.
It also includes welcoming newcomers into the community.
“This story went back 10 years ago, when I came to Delano from a country far, far away,” a nominator wrote. “I feel very fortunate that I stumbled upon the Delano library, and more fortunate that Carol was behind the desk at that time. She just has the personality that made people feel genuinely welcomed.”
Individuals who nominated Plocher range from a high school junior to a grandmother from Plymouth, who has used the library with her daughter and granddaughter, who live in Delano.
The high schooler shared a story about Plocher helping to research the Loch Ness Monster.
“She would often reply with interesting stories of her own travels to different countries and the unusual legends she encountered there,” the nominator wrote. “Those stories inspired me to research the places she talked about, and helped me become aware of the world around me.”
Many letters gave a nod to the library serving patrons of all ages.
“Carol has opened up many worlds to many people; there is always something interesting happening at the Delano Library and it is filled with talking and laughter of infants up to people in their 90s,” that grandmother wrote. “And Carol knows your name!”
“Under her leadership, the Delano Public Library is more than a building or an institution,” another nominator wrote. “It is an active community center where residents of all ages can pursue personal, family, educational, commercial, and technical interests.”
That nominator also noted Plocher’s efforts to write grants to fund programs and events.
According to another nominator, under Plocher’s leadership, usage of the library has grown, with 3,524 registered borrowers checking out 11,700 items monthly, up from 1,000 monthly when Plocher started working at the library.
The outpouring of support for Plocher convinced the GFWC that she should be named Citizen of the Year.
“Normally, the women’s club tries to focus strictly on volunteers,” GFWC President Chris Brazelton said. “What convinced us was the letters telling us how she goes so far above and beyond the expectations of her job and how she embraces the community and brought in resources to support the community. That got us to step outside our typical box of looking strictly for volunteers.”
Brazelton noted that two other worthy candidates were nominated, and she encouraged their supporters to nominate them again.
Plocher expressed gratitude for those who nominated her.
“I appreciate all the people who went to bat for me,” Plocher said. “It was very kind of them.”