Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Karen MacPherson retiring from Takoma Park Maryland Library

Photo credits: Bruce Guthrie
 by Bruce Guthrie


Folks who've used the Takoma Park Maryland Library at the Takoma Park Community Center or attended children's author events there were accustomed to being greeted by the library's coordinator of children's and teen services, Karen MacPherson.  Karen recently announced that she'll be retiring from the library on June 30.

Like many who loved their jobs especially because of the interaction it provided with customers, the pandemic took a heavy toll.  While most places are looking forward to reopening in full bloom in a near-post-pandemic vaccinated world, the library building will be demolished in November, being replaced 18-ish-months later by a new one.  Operations will move to temporary quarters in the interim.  

Kwame Alexander and Karen

Karen didn't start as a librarian.  As a kid, she loved reading and children's books.  She decided that she'd either be a reporter or a children's librarian.  For 30 years, she was the former, working as a reporter.  Originally with the UPI in Richmond, she moved to Washington, DC and worked for Thomson Newspapers, Scripps Howard News Service (DC correspondent for the Albuquerque Tribune), and finally the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  She was working for the latter when the 9/11 attacks happened.  The next day, she was on her way to report from the Pentagon when she was told to turn around because there were rumors of another pending attack.  She wondered why she was risking her life when she now had a family (two children and a husband who was also a reporter) and decided to switch to Plan B.

The next year, she enrolled at the University of Maryland in College Park to get a Master's in Library Science.  In 2006, she started at the Takoma Park library.

At the library, she created a new teen section and a number of programs like the Banned Books Club for teens.  In 2009, the latter was recognized with the American Library Association's (ALA) John Phillip Immroth Award, which "seeks out and recognizes personal courage and contributions to intellectual freedom."   For 23 years, she wrote a weekly column on kids books for Scripps Howard News Service.  Later, she wrote occasional kids book columns for the Washington Post.

In 2016, she served on the prestigious Caldecott committee.  The Randolph Caldecott Medal is an annual award to the illustrator of the "most distinguished American picture book for children."  The committee which selects the award winner as well as the runners up is made up of 15 members chosen by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the ALA.  Publishers send in books to be considered (there were said to be 700 works submitted in 2009) and the committee considers each.  It's a time-consuming job and committee members typically serve just one year.

Kate DiCamillo and Karen

 In the year Karen was involved, the winning book selected was Sophie Blackall's "Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear".  

In 2013, DC's iconic independent bookstore, Politics and Prose, approached the library about hosting out-of-store children's author events.  Over the years, 75-ish have graced the venue including Kate DiCamillo ("Because of Winn-Dixie", "The Tale of Despereaux", "Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures"), Jason Reynolds ("As Brave as You", "Ghost (Track series)", "Miles Morales: Spider-Man"), Katherine Applegate ("The One and Only Ivan", "Animorphs"), Jon Klassen ("Sam and Dave Dig a Hole", "I Want My Hat Back", "This Is Not My Hat"), Tom Angleberger ("The Strange Case of Origami Yoda") and Cece Bell ("El Deafo"), and Sophie Blackall ("Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear", "Hello Lighthouse").

MacPherson saw many comics creators come through the library. Over the years, I personally attended events there for Alex Alice ("Castle in the Stars"), Alexis Frederick-Frost ("Hocus Focus"), Ben Hatke ("Nobody Likes a Goblin"), Eleanor Davis & Drew Weing ("Flop to the Top"), Emily Jenkins ("A Greyhound, a Groundhog"), Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers ("Imaginary Fred"), Fabien Cousteau ("Great White Shark Adventure"), Gail Carson Levine ("Stolen Magic"), Gareth Hinds ("Macbeth"), Jay Hosler ("Last of the Sandwalkers"), Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm ("The Evil Princess vs. The Brave Knight"), Jérémie Royer ("Audubon: On the Wings of the World"), Jonathan Roth ("Beep and Bob"), Jorge Aguirre ("Dragons Beware!"), Juana Medina ("Juana and Lucas"), Julie Fogliano ("Just in Case You Want to Fly"), Kate Dicamillo ("Leroy Ninker Saddles Up"), Kevin McCloskey ("Real Poop on Pigeons"), Mac Barnett and Matt Myers ("Rules of the House"), Christian Robinson ("Josephine" and "Last Stop on Market Street"), Ruth Chan ("Where's the Party?"), Ryan T. Higgins ("Mother Bruce"), Sophie Blackall and John Bemelmans Marciano ("Witches of Benevento"), William Joyce ("Bently & Egg..."), and Yuyi Morales ("Dreamers/ Soñadores").

In retirement, Karen plans to keep busy -- studying French, playing piano, traveling -- and is also open to volunteering at the library as needed.  It will be nice to be able to see her there again because she's been missed!

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