The Book Nook

Donna Vought

Thanks to a Special Person


In lieu of a book review, I’d like to thank outgoing Black Earth Library Director Carolyn Shaffer by sharing some of her many accomplishments since she was hired in 2007.  Her dedication and ability to make a difference resulted in many positive changes for our area and deserve recognition.

I feel fortunate to be able to comment both as a long-time library patron and a member of her staff since 2014.  As a patron, I had no complaints about the library before she arrived, but noticed she brought a steady improvement in the offerings and a large uptick in customer service.  Her first task was to get to know people from the area and get a sense of what they wanted from their library.    As she memorized faces, names and preferences, she forged connections in a way that showed she cared.

She engaged people with genuine interest, had great reading suggestions and made coming to the library more pleasant than it had been previously.  Over time she transformed the one-room space into a warm and vibrant hub for the community.  Many patrons appreciated Carolyn’s energy and willingness to go the extra mile in finding and ordering materials they’d enjoy.

Soon she began making a difference that extended beyond the library’s doors.  It was Carolyn who organized the local Quilts of Valor effort, finding volunteers and working with them to create quilts given to honor our veterans.  She headed efforts to build outdoor benches for people to sit on and dovetailed library offerings to coincide with local events, often contributing food items she’d made.

She listened to comments about the area’s limited activity options for kids and focused on the needs of our youth.  Today we have a fun, colorful mural overlooking an inviting area packed with books, toys and activity items so kids can read, play, and learn.  There’s also a separate section for young adults.

She recognized a similar need for adults, organizing a wide array of performances, demonstrations, talks, games, etc. to educate and entertain us.  She did her best to squeeze every cent from an ever-diminishing budget to provide as many resources as possible.

It’s been heart-warming to watch her promote local businesses or connect someone with a particular need to a person who can help.  Many times, it’s Carolyn providing that help, frequently on her own dime and time.  She celebrates happy events and offers condolences for sad ones, and if you received a card signed by the library staff, that was due to her thoughtfulness.

Carolyn’s understanding that that libraries must change with the times and needs of their neighborhood stimulated policy changes.  She eliminated late-return fines and stayed away from being a “silence only” space.  The result was happier patrons who can enjoy a place that’s not only packed with resources but where they can also meet and interact with others.  She also increased the library’s digital offerings and expanded wireless access.

During the pandemic Carolyn’s calm and effective leadership benefited both patrons and personnel.  She made sure staff didn’t lose their job and had projects we could do from home.  She spent countless hours researching how to reopen safely, obtaining protective wear and cleaning supplies at a time when they were nearly impossible to find.

While most libraries closed completely or suspended nearly all of their services, Carolyn worked tirelessly to find ways we could provide some services in a way that was safe.  To make sheltering at home more bearable, she purchased subscriptions so patrons could enjoy free movies, tv shows, music and other items.  Thanks to her carefully-planned procedures, the Black Earth Library stayed ahead of the curve and avoided problems experienced elsewhere.

As a manager, Carolyn was appreciative of and respectful to her staff, providing feedback in constructive ways.  We came to appreciate her loyalty, transparency and honesty.  She praised staff accomplishments and was quick to let us know whenever a patron showed their appreciation, and I never heard her take credit for herself.  It was heart-warming when an employee from a different library recently emailed us to say how much they’d miss Carolyn’s advice and help.

I’ve come to think of Carolyn as a cohesive force in our area.  My voice is just one of many expressing gratitude for her diligent service and countless acts of kindness.

She embodied the spirit of the quote “Be the change you want to see” and will be missed more then she’ll ever know.  Regardless of where she goes or what she does, she will be respected for her breadth of knowledge and professionalism and loved for her huge heart and superb customer service skills.  Our loss will be someone else’s gain.

Login Help

Thank you for visiting the new website. For your initial login, please use the following:

Username: Your current Star News username
Password: Please also use your username as your password

Once you successfully login, you can change your username. Thank you.