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Calling it a career

Ellen Connor will retire in December as director of Sturm Memorial Library in Manawa. Holly Neumann Photo

Connor to retire from library

By Holly Neumann

After 34 1/2 years as director of Manawa’s Sturm Memorial Library, Ellen Connor will retire in December.

It’s people she will miss the most, she said.

“The staff, the patrons, the library board and the other city workers,” she said. “You connect with a lot of people in this job. Other library staff, OWLS (Outagamie Waupaca Library System) staff, all the teachers I know at the schools, city council members, the list goes on and on. I do think I will have to make more of an effort to create some new networks for myself.”

Connor said her biggest accomplishment was the new library, built in 1994.

“It was a community-wide effort, for sure,” she said. “We had so many dedicated people working on that project and community members raised all the money for the furnishings.”

Connor had to write a program building statement to qualify for a federal grant.

“It felt like a major term paper,” she said. “I can still remember the relief I felt when it was finished.”

Connor also developed presentations for surrounding townships to convince them to donate to the project.

“I sure enjoyed getting out and talking to people,” she said. “We were so excited about the new library and so were the townships because most of them contributed to the project.”

She is also proud of the staff members she hired.

“We have been so fortunate here to have dedicated staff who love their jobs,” she said. “Their steadfast support has kept this place humming along and we’ve had a great time together, too. Together, we have expanded program offerings for all ages here.”

Connor believes libraries are all about free access to information.

“I spent almost my whole working life in a library serving others and providing experiences for them around that idea,” she said. “You never stop learning working in a library. We have created a welcoming place here. We feel like we have a community and that the library is a big part of the community. Connecting with children and teenagers has been a huge joy.”

The biggest change Connor has seen is rapidly changing technology.

“The way people get their materials has really changed,” she said. “It has impacted how we serve people and foot traffic at the library. People don’t browse in the stacks much like they used to. They do their ‘shopping’ online and come in to pick materials up. Or, they use online resources exclusively. It’s all good, it’s just different.”

On the flip side, adult programs offered at the library have become much more popular.

“People are looking for experiences just as much as they’re looking for materials,” Connor said.

During her retirement, Connor intends to come to the library and browse in the stacks, stay active in the library’s book club and support area libraries any way she can.

“I also want to spend more time with my family,” she said. “Some of my sisters have meet-ups at a Culver’s in a town that is central for them. Of course, for me, it will be a two-plus-hour ride, but I am going to make the effort to get to a few.”

Connor and her husband have also upgraded to a bigger camper.

“We intend to do more extended camping trips,” she said. “We have one planned to Arkansas for the 2024 eclipse.”

Her message to the patrons of the library is to keep using the facility.

“It’s so important that people continue to show support by checking out materials in one way or another,

coming to programs and using the library as a space away from home,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to suggest ideas for materials to purchase or programs to have. It’s your library. A big thank you and a huge dose of gratitude to Manawa for letting me have a soul-sustaining work life for 34 years.”

An open house will be held Monday, Dec. 18, at the library so Connor will be able to say goodbye.

Connor believes libraries are a fundamental part of America’s landscape.

“They keep American ideals alive,” she said. “In Wisconsin, you will find a library in almost every town you travel through. They are dynamic places that respond to the needs of their communities.

“They are also a way for people to learn about the rest of the world,” she added. “Learning is key to growth and survival. We should never be afraid to learn. Libraries let people do that in their own way in their own time, whether it’s through true stories, novels, movies, magazines, music or attending programs. We need to protect the public places in our society that provide those opportunities. These places make for healthy and robust communities.”

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