BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN For nearly 25 years, the Delano Public Library has been a big part of Carol Plocher’s life.
She doesn’t want that to change, even though Thursday will be her last day as library services coordinator there.
Plocher plans to volunteer at the library in the future, and perhaps work as a substitute library assistant if the opportunity arises.
But, she believes right now is the best time to step away from the job she loves.
“The timing seems good to me because of my personal issues,” Plocher said, referencing the care she provides for her mother, who lives with her and her husband, Ronald. “ . . . I really had a hard time making the decision. I kept putting it off. I probably waited a full year . . . I’m going to miss it a lot. I feel I’ve put my whole heart into this.”
Plocher began her current career as a library assistant to Delano librarian Grace Burhans June 1, 1992.
“Prior to this job, I did accounting, which helped me with this job,” Plocher said. “My English degree transferred well, also.”
That’s right: Plocher does not have a library science degree, which is now required for her position. That did not stop her from hitting the ground running with her new job.
“Right from the time she started working, Carol was very enthusiastic about helping people and promoting programs,” Burhans said.
Programming multiplied under Plocher’s leadership, drawing people to the library in droves, as evidenced by the increase in number of checked-out items. When Plocher began working at the library, there were about 2,000 checkouts per month. Since then, Plocher has seen checkouts as high as 14,000 items per month at the peak of library summer programs.
Another change Plocher experienced was the switch from card catalogs to a computer system in 1995, the same year she became the local librarian.
That technology had its share of problems, especially when it was overloaded with a large volume of checkouts.
“We built up programming so much that we had a computer crash,” Plocher said. “We could only check out materials. That went on the whole summer of 1998. That was a huge event. We didn’t know who had our books. We couldn’t check them back in, so we couldn’t check them back out again.”
The library itself changed in both size and location during Plocher’s tenure.
“I’ve been here for four remodeling projects,” Plocher said. “We had two at the old building (140 Bridge Ave. E.). We opened here (160 Railroad Ave.) in 2004. It took three years because we had to raise funds through grants and fundraisers to remodel the building.”
Plocher said the final remodel took place after the State Bank of Delano moved out of the drive-through portion of the building, and the city allowed the library to turn the space into a break room for staff.
More space in the current library has allowed exhibits to be hosted there.
Calico Quilters, who meet regularly in the library, exhibit their works each February; followed by the March photo exhibit; the October art exhibit; the November fiber arts exhibit; and the December student art exhibit that is kicked off during Old-Fashioned Christmas each year.
“In the old library, we had the art exhibit, maybe the photo exhibit,” Plocher said. “These other three exhibits have all started in this building. We had a volunteer install this picture railing, which has been phenomenal for allowing us to do these exhibits. Again, it draws people into the library.”
About 20 volunteers known as the Friends of the Delano Library assist Plocher and her staff, which has grown from one library aid working four hours a week in 1995, to four library assistants; a substitute library assistant; and three library aids.
One of those volunteers spoke very highly of Plocher.
“Carol Plocher has always been full of ideas and together, throughout the years, the Friends of the Delano Library have helped her flesh out those ideas to make the library a vital part of the community,” Mary Ann Bernat said.
The feeling is mutual, as Plocher said she appreciates the volunteer and financial support from the Friends throughout the years.
Those aren’t the only friends she’ll miss.
“The piece I’m going to miss the most is people interaction,” Plocher said. “It’s not hard for me to just have whoever is there on the other side of the desk become my best friend, just because I really like people and I’m interested in how they’re doing and how old their kids are. I want to see pictures.”
Plocher said she has enjoyed watching children grow up visiting the library.
“I have gotten to see kids from birth all the way to adulthood, and what’s one of the most fun things for me is to see that adult come in with their kids,” Plocher said. “That’s starting to happen, that the little kids I remember from the library are adults and are bringing their little kids back to the library.”
Those examples are indicative that the library has succeeded in its mission to pass on a love of reading from one generation to the next.
Plocher wants to see the success continue.
“I want to see it continue to succeed and to be an integral part of the community, and that the library continue to be your community gathering place so people feel at home when they come here,” Plocher said.
In 2016, she was honored as the General Federated Women’s Club of Delano Citizen of the Year, in part for how she welcomes people into the library and the community at large.
Of the 15 people who nominated her for that honor, one in particular referenced Plocher’s welcoming nature.
“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.”
Joining community members, volunteers, and Plocher’s former boss in sharing compliments and expressing well wishes was Sheila Rieke, a fellow library services coordinator at the Cokato branch of the Great River Regional Library.
“I, for one, will miss her dearly,” Rieke said. “We help each other out. It’s good camaraderie. She’s been a really wonderful mentor for me. She was a wealth of information. She shared her knowledge with me. I truly appreciated her love for the library, her passion for it, and I’m a better librarian because of her.”
Theresa Jacobs, another library services coordinator, will be moving to the Delano branch.
“She is moving from the Rockford Library to Delano, and comes with great experience,” Plocher said.
Jacobs will start her new position Monday, March 27. (Look for a feature on Jacobs in a future edition of the Delano Herald Journal.)
Knowing that the library will be in good hands, Plocher will focus on the goal list she has drafted:
“Quit setting my alarm for 5 a.m.
Declutter my house who doesn’t want to do that? I’ll bet I could check out a library book to help me.
Read more library books.
See if I can still ride my bike.
And, if possible:
Travel a bit.
Be a library substitute (I would love this.)
She can start working toward those goals starting Friday, March 24, whether she’s ready or not.
“Once March 23 comes, they are taking my key,” Plocher said with a laugh. “What can I do? I really have a lot of fun here. This job is so much fun and the people in Delano are the best on the planet. No kidding.”