Submitted by Madawaska Valley Public Library Board of Trustees
There is a reason the Madawaska Valley Public Library is the envy of people in other areas. That reason is our CEO Head Librarian Karen Filipkowski. Karen has made the Library a second home to residents and visitors of MV and BLR. Whether you are a local, a visitor, an annual cottager, a child just learning to read or looking for your family’s history, Karen always has time to help you find the resources you are looking for — and have a friendly chat, too! Above: Karen Filipkowski (photo submitted)
Karen will be retiring on November 25, 2022. The Library has been bustling with activity since Karen moved to Barry’s Bay in 2011, back when it was called the Barry’s Bay Library. Much more than just the library’s name has changed in her 11-year tenure. Karen has remained a strong champion for the public library. She has continuously worked to expand the library’s collection of books, audio books, DVDs as far as the physical limit of the building will allow, not to mention the array of e-resources available through the Library’s website. She has partnered with local organizations such as the Horticultural Society to plant a native flower garden in the front yard of the Library, and the Legion and the arena to hold events. Karen was part of the lobbying effort to keep the Interlibrary Loan Program running despite provincial cutbacks. An endless job, Karen has continuously researched ways to improve the technology and Internet access at the Library. Not to be forgotten is Karen’s contribution to the Opeongo’s Reader’s Theatre and The Opeongo Line Podcast; as well as the ever popular Trivia Night, which sees several teams of locals and seasonal visitors competing for bragging rights and a photo with the trophy. Even after working through one library renovation, which sent bags of books home with patrons for safe keeping, she has spearheaded a committee to strategize for a new building for the library.
It makes sense that Karen has led a strong children’s program at MVPL since she loves children and started her library career as a Children’s Librarian at Houston Public Library in BC, then the Chief Librarian of Houston Public Library. Before moving to Barry’s Bay, Karen was the Manager for North Coast Library Federation in northern BC. Karen has entertained and educated local and visiting children with craft kits, story times, and extensive summer and March break programming, including fencing demonstrations, seed planting in the back parking lot, story book walks highlighting local authors, sleepovers for stuffies who get their own written account of their nighttime activities, homemade Christmas decorations, and drumming in the front garden. The Hallowe’en scavenger hunt, organized by library staff and local business, is a hit every year encouraging over 150 children of all ages to walk around town looking for clues. Of course, there has been plenty of adult programming as well with book clubs, paper decoration workshops, egg painting, musical evenings, a speaker series on the North, and author events, including most recently talks with Carley Fortune, and Suzanne Evans.
Karen’s service has stretched beyond the Madawaska Valley, as she collaborated with other local librarians, including Karen DeLuca from the Arnprior Library, Kelly Thompson from Renfrew Public Library and Nicole Zummach from Killaloe Public Library, to organize the Little Branches Rural Roots Library Conference, an event specifically geared towards library staff from small, rural libraries. The first conference was held in August 2019, and was an innovative, professional event with numerous workshops, complete with an intimate concert with Sean McCann! This annual conference will resume in May 2023.
These services and programs just scratch the surface of what Karen has organized for the community. If it can be done in a Library, Karen has done her very best to include it!
Karen has worked hard to make the Library a welcoming refuge for everyone in our community by creating a lively space open to new ideas. We are looking toward to her continued support in a volunteer capacity. Please help us celebrate Karen and drop in to the Madawaska Valley Public Library on Friday, November 25 to wish Karen a long and happy retirement. Light refreshments will be available from 10am to 12pm and 1pm to 5pm and there will be a guest book to record your best wishes for Karen.