Leah Ryan/Iron Range Today
AURORA — “You are invited!” pronounces the bright orange “Library Chit-Chat,” the Aurora Public Library’s monthly newsletter.
Tonight, Thursday, November 10, from 4-6 p.m., the community is invited to an open house at the library “To honor and thank Librarian Paula Chapman for her 21 years of service to the Aurora Public Library and to meet and greet the promoted staff: Librarian Jen Baker, Assistant Librarian Rebekah Ronning.” Light refreshments to be served.
“At this point, I have no definite plans, but I am looking forward to turning the page and starting a new chapter in life — and being able to focus more on home and family, church, and friends,” said Chapman over email in an interview this week.
She is looking forward to starting a new chapter of her book of life. “ I have been considering a shift in priorities for a while. I chose to make that shift now because I knew the library had a great team who were ready for promotion. My leaving now gave them that opportunity and is helping make for a smooth transition.”
Chapman started working part-time at the library in 2001 and became the librarian in 2005.
While growing up in Colorado, Chapman what is a frequent user and employed by her library. After marriage her and her spouse moved to Aurora where she again leaned on the library.
“I came to the library to get a library card and to use the computer here to update my resume with my new address,” recalled Chapman of her early days on the Iron Range. “While visiting with Joyce Banttari, who was the librarian at that time, she told me that there was an opening at the library and asked for a copy of my updated resume.“
Soon after, Chapman was hired in a part-time position. When Banttari retired she was promoted to librarian.
Over the years the library collection has changed as had the format and delivery process of library materials. But the most important thing hasn’t, our “a focus on serving the community has been a constant.”
Chapman rejoices in the many highlights to her career. “ It’s fun to see people, both children and adults, excited when a new book by their favorite author comes out, or a book or movie they requested through interlibrary loan arrives, or when they get to meet one of their favorite authors through a library program. It has been a delight to see young children learning to read, and then continuing to love to read and learn and discover as they grow up.”
Chapman’s tenure is reflected on as professional and passionate by colleagues.
“ We are very sad to see her going but appreciate greatly her 21 years of exceptional service to our library — as well as her many other community contributions,” said Aurora Mayor Doug Gregor. “ Perhaps her most creative initiative was the time that the Library offered “pizza in a bag” kits during the Pandemic. Paula’s monthly reports on Library activities were always very informative, upbeat and creative.”
Jim Weikum, executive director of Arrowhead Library Service, recalls Chapman researching, finding and creating resources for caretakers of those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
“ Her can-do attitude is so refreshing,” said Weikum. “ I will miss contacting her and asking, ‘How do you do this insert task or process at your library?” as her experience was then passed on to less experienced library staff.”
Weikum, who is mayor of Biwabik, considers Aurora his home library. He recalls when Chapman took over as Librarian and had big shoes to fill. But Chapman rose to the challenge. Dave Lislegard, the current state representative in the area and former Aurora mayor agrees.
“As a former city counselor, I have always had the utmost respect for Ms. Chapman,” said Lislegard earlier this week. “When presenting to the city Council she was always well prepared and understood her budget. She’s passionate about the library, caring to community members and patrons, put children’s needs first and professional at the highest level.”
Just as she filled big shoes, she leaves some big shoes behind, all bet unknowingly.
“I would like to be remembered as someone who contributed to making the library a welcoming and helpful place,” Chapman humbly admits.
Baker and Ronning have enjoyed working and learning from Chapman. “ Paula is just about the kindest person you will meet,” said Ronning. “ She has a strong knowledge base, not only in the running of the library but the patrons and their needs.”
When asked how she feels about Chapman leaving, Baker admitted to mixed feelings. “ I am so excited for her to be able to move on to a different place in life. She deserves it! However, selfishly I really love working with her and she has such vast knowledge it will be hard to not have her here every day.”
Baker has this to say to Chapman, “ Thank you! For her years of service to the community, for the dedication to our patrons, for the unwavering commitment to the city, and for being someone who makes an impact in people’s lives.”
Chapman has created a strong team of Baker and Ronning. The library has a supportive Friends group and “supportive and engaged group of patrons,” explained Gregor. “ – I am confident that they will continue to thrive. Aurora will miss Paula but are very confident in the future of our library under Jen’s leadership.”
Baker started as Circulation clerk in February 2021 before being promoted to Assistant Library later that year. She officially became librarian last month on October 6. There has been overlap between Baker starting and Chapman leaving, providing time for education and adjustment.
Baker knows she will have big shoes to fill with Chapman leaving but said she trained her well. “*I am very excited about this new role! I have always enjoyed reading and working with the public so it checks off some “dream job” boxes.”
Baker has an education in mental health and special education but has worked in full time and part time in libraries in the past.
“ I think the most exciting part for me is getting to build onto what Paula has already developed,” said Baker. “She has created a wonderful foundation for us to work with, so getting to see what we can grow and improve will be fun! ”
Baker and Ronning both enjoy working together and are excited for their future. “ Jen and I work well as a team. We feel comfortable throwing ideas around and discussing what needs to be accomplished each day. “
For the past year, Ronning has been working part-time as the Circulation Clerk. Since Tuesday, she is now the Assistant Librarian but has been preparing for the change and learning new tasks for awhile.
“ I have always enjoyed the library and what it has to offer to the community. And when this job opened up, I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity,” said Ronning adding, “ I want to take on more responsibilities and continue to learn and train to better assist our patrons and community.
Baker is excited for Ronning promotion and the continuation of their team. “We work really well together and she is someone who shares my vision of keeping the library a safe, happy place for people to come and enjoy. She is a fast learner and willing to try new things, so she’s really good at everything!”
Chapman admits she won’t miss creating reports, the very things Lislegard was always so impressed with, but will miss interacting with patrons. Although she has recently moved to Pablo, she won’t be too far away, “I look forward to returning down the road as a library patron, and perhaps even an occasional volunteer and Friend of the Library.” Her status as an Arrowhead Library Service patron will remain active.
Looking to the future for the library, Chapman said Baker and Ronning make a great team. “ I think that Jen Baker will be a wonderful Librarian here in Aurora, and that Rebekah Ronning will be an excellent Assistant Librarian. They both have strong work ethics, excellent customer service skills, are very detail-oriented, and are enthusiastic about library services.”
The community is invited to begin sharing their thoughts through a survey at aurorapubliclibrarymn.com and through a Google document.
At Monday’s Library Board of Trustees meeting, it was decided to send a request to the city council to declare a vacancy. When asked to speculate on the council’s response, Gregor had this to say.
“I anticipate that the Council will act swiftly to seek candidates for the part-time Circulation Clerk vacancy.”
The Aurora Public Library is located with city hall at 14 W 2nd Ave N, Aurora. The phone number is (218)229-2021. The library’s hours of operation are: Monday and Friday 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Noon to 7 pm, Saturday and Sunday closed.