By Megan Kelley
After nearly nine-and-a-half years, the Orion Township Library is saying farewell to Library Director Karen Knox.
Knox was hired back in April 2012, succeeding Linda Sickles and bringing with her a great deal of knowledge and experience with technology.
Since her arrival, the library has undergone quite a bit of transformation, with Knox leading the charge on bringing the library up to date technology-wise, as well spatially, with a nearly full interior renovation.
“First and foremost, we got the technology updated. So the online catalogue system is new, since I got here. We added the self-checkouts, kind of updated all of the patron-facing technology,” Knox said. “It was just important after we got that part done to kind of look at the overall space. It still looked like 1989. This building is 32 years old; it was showing its age and we just wanted to refresh everything.”
With these changes have also come a new wave of younger employees with a passion for providing high-quality library services, said Knox.
Community outreach has also been on the upswing since Knox was hired as the director: by partnering with local organizations, the introduction of the book bike and the continued collaboration with Lake Orion Community Schools.
While Knox has been able to accomplish many things, her greatest challenge over the last nine years has been creating awareness in the community about what the library does.
“Even with all of the things that we try to do outreach-wise, partnership-wise, when Orion Living came to be, all of this stuff — I still feel like there is a very large lack of awareness of what our library offers this community and what an amazing resource it is,” Knox said. “I also think libraries have that across the country. How do you get people to understand when they’re so focused on so many other things? There’s just so much going on in the lives of people.”
Knox is taking her experience to St. Charles County, Missouri where she will be the Director of Technology Services for the 12-building St. Charles County Library System.
“I’m going there for a few reasons. One, it’s because I have never worked in a large system before. I’ve only ever worked at these small, one-building libraries and so I’m really curious what it’s like when you have more buildings, more people, bigger access to resources, how that works,” said Knox.
Knox spent a majority of her life here in Michigan and, after the passing of her mother a year ago, she says she was ready for a change.
“I’m just ready for a new chapter,” Knox said. “I’m ready for a new chapter somewhere outside of Michigan, that’s what I was looking for. And Missouri; I’ve learned that I’m kind of still a Mid-west girl.”
This change also presents a new challenge for Knox, one for which she says she’s ready.
“There’s a good part of me that still enjoys the tech side of things and I’m still connected in that way. And it’ll be very interesting to me to see how a new community, a new library embraces the technology solutions and how can I help them find ways to make technology services improve in their community,” said Knox.
Reflecting on her time at the Orion Twp. Public Library, Knox calls the change ‘bittersweet’ but is confident in the staff moving forward.
“It was my first director job. So, managing 45 people, give or take, through so many different changes…they’re really in a good place right now where they support one another. There’s, I think, a pretty good morale right now even though we’ve come through COVID and everything. I feel like they’re a good, fairly well-bonded group of staff and I think they’re going to do great things,” Knox said.
While nothing can ever be ‘perfect’ Knox is proud of what has been accomplished over the years.
“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do. It’s definitely bittersweet and I feel good about what we’ve been able to do over the last nine years. We’ve made a lot of changes, we built on the success that Linda Sickles had prior to me,” Knox said. “I feel like there’s still a lot of support in our community for our library and I’m happy about that and I just hope that that will continue.”
On her way out, Knox emphasized her gratitude toward the community that has supported the library through it all and encourages others to get involved too.
“I just want to thank the community for their support and encourage them to continue to support their library because there is an amazing amount of resources here and if they haven’t been here in a while, come check it out. And if you have, bring a friend next time,” said Knox.”
Visit www.orionlibrary.org for a list of available online resources and other information. The Orion Twp. Public Library is located at 825 Joslyn Rd. in Lake Orion.