KALONA — When Anne Skaden became the director of the Kalona Public Library in August of 1994, she never imagined she would stay for 25 years, but she did. On Friday, March 20, she closed out her career as director in favor of retirement.
Growing up in Southern Minnesota, Skaden said she never wanted to be a librarian but always carried a propensity for libraries. Her father was on the library board and among her siblings she was the biggest reader in the family.
“My parents weren’t big on buying books. They were big on going to the library and borrowing books,” she said.
However, her drive to become a librarian did not stem from a childhood experience. The local librarian was stern and serious which made her decide it was not the job for her, she said.
While working to receive her undergrad in English from Bemidji State University, Skaden said she began thinking about her future. For her work-study option she chose to work in the library while she contemplated.
“It seemed like it was either the library or the dining hall and I didn’t want to get up at 5 a.m. to sling hash so the library sounded pretty good,” she said with a laugh.
While there, the idea of becoming a school librarian came to mind. Skaden and her husband moved to the Milwaukee area for his job and she enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee where she earned a Master’s degree in library science.
The pair moved to the Kalona area in 1985 during the farm crisis and her husband found work in Frytown. Skaden joined the library board in Kalona and worked in various other school libraries in the area, she said.
In 1994 the library board was struggling to find a director, she said. The position was part-time and most directors they were finding would come from Iowa City and only stay a year or two before finding a full-time position with better pay closer to home.
The board was aware of her background in libraries and asked her to consider the position. Being a mom of small children getting to work part-time interested her, she said, and she applied.
“It seemed very flexible at the time with my small children so it was the right time to apply for it and I got it,” she said.
In August of that year Skaden stepped into the role, which she described as overwhelming. The library was operating on a limited budget which was stretched by the previous director and Skaden was tasked with trying to figure out how to balance it.
“It was a huge learning experience. There was a lot that you don’t learn in school that I had to learn on the job,” she said.
The biggest change she faced during her career was the new building built in 2005. The former library was in the high school and had to be accessed by stairs. It was not handicap accessible and was difficult for the public, she said.
Skaden said community support was vital to the project and although she was nervous, it went off without a hitch. The community backed the new library and even voted to put a levee in place to support the library in the future.
“I had a fantastic group of board members and we worked our way through it step by step,” she said.
When she first took the job, Skaden said she never imagined she would stay for 25 years but doing so just felt right. Her original plan was to retire on March 31, but due to COVID-19 the library is closed to the public and her official last day was Friday, March 20.
What she will miss the most are the people and staff who she has connected with over the years and have made her job fun, she said. The camaraderie and community support are what made her stay much longer than expected.
“I never could have imagined having a job that I enjoyed for that long. It’s just been a joy and a pleasure and an honor.”