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It wasn’t exactly the news Karen Connell expected to hear while sitting in Miami International Airport on Feb 4.

She and her husband, Will, had just returned from a cruise celebrating five years of marriage when a co-worker from Columbus Public Library called and informed her that Laura Whitehead was resigning as the organization's director.

With Whitehead stepping away officially as of Friday, Feb. 8, it was announced on Monday by the city that Connell will be serving as the new interim director of Columbus Public Library.

Interestingly enough, this isn’t uncharted territory for the current reference librarian. This is the third time she will have served in the interim director capacity. Leading up to the 2014 hiring of Drew Brookhart she filled the shoes. And following his departure to Colorado prior to Whitehead’s arrival in December 2017, she manned the helm as director for a few months.

The former director, Connell said, left on good terms with the library – it was a family decision so that she could spend more time with her husband who works in Nebraska City.

“Obviously they are married and want to spend time together,” Connell said of Whitehead, who couldn't be reached for comment.

“ … She said it was a hard decision to make, though.”

Connell, who said she plans to apply for the full-time library director position, noted that ultimately the decision lies with the Library Board of Directors, which act as the organization’s governing body. The city is currently accepting job applications through Feb. 22. Applications can be obtained at City Hall, 2424 14th St, or on the City of Columbus' website.

The position, released information from the city states, is highly responsible for administrative and professional work in planning, organizing and directing all public library and information services. The position requires a master’s degree in Library Science and five-plus years in library work, including supervision. The pay range, released information says, is $59,875-$83,790 and offers a competitive benefits package.

Connell, a Kansas native, completed her undergraduate degree from Northwest Missouri State University before subsequently diving into the library master’s degree program at Emporia State University.

She started working at Columbus Public Library in January 2012. She noted that she didn’t know anything about the Columbus community prior to relocating – she did a Skype interview and took the job. She had a good feeling about what the occupation would bring and it has been a good fit, she said.

The interim position brings about new responsibilities, but she feels good about tackling the - somewhat new – challenge.

Had Connell not become a librarian in Columbus, she said she likely would have become a flight attendant. It was something she always felt compelled to do, but her passion for service landed her in Columbus.

And she said she’s glad it did.

“I realized that I wouldn’t have a home base, I would just be gone all the time,” she said of if she'd become a flight attendant. “And to me, serving and ministry are very important, getting involved in the community is really important, establishing long-term relationships with people is what I love.

“So, I figured that I could serve people on an airplane that I’ll see once, or I can serve people in a library that I can see every day.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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