With 14 years in the books, Ted Stark, director of the Menomonie Public Library, will be retiring on May 31st. Stark moved with his family to Menomonie in 2007 to take over as library director and has been the longest-serving director at the library’s current location.
Many improvements have been made at the library during his tenure.
"Ted has taken our library into the 21st century through a combination of improved tech, better internet access, a formal long-range planning process, and re-branding," said Joleen Sterk, a long-time library employee who has been named the new library director. "He has secured funding for digital movie streaming, digitized local history collections, increased access to local newspapers, and invested in many community programs."
During Stark’s time as director, the library has added wireless internet, self-check units, a new website, more computers, high-speed internet access, and WIFI hotspots available for loan. He oversaw a renovation in 2009 and many building and grounds updates, including installing energy-efficient windows and lighting and a new outdoor patio.
Stark says the technological advancements have been the most significant change during his time. The library has transitioned from an emphasis on print materials to more digital content and greatly expanded the technology available to the public. The library has also expanded into more programming and events.
“The library has become so much more than books and reading material,” Stark said. “The library’s offerings have expanded with all of the changes in technology, and we’ve branched out to offering more programming and events, such as the Menomonie Reads program and the Music Over Menomin concert series.”
Covid -19 brought the most significant challenge for Stark and the library. The library closed entirely for a couple of months, reopened with restrictions, then closed again from September until April 5th. The library continued to serve the public during the last closure by offering curbside pick-up and access to WIFI in the parking lot. During the closure, the library provided over 6000 curbside pickups, 50,000 digital downloads, and over 40,000 WIFI sessions.
“Covid had a huge impact on the library. We had to quickly figure out a way to continue to serve the public,” Stark said. “We have a great core staff here, and they really stepped up and figured out curbside pick up, quarantine returns, and how to put some of our programs online. They showed real courage and resolve.”
As for what’s next for Stark, that’s up in the air. “I don’t have any retirement plans, but my wife (Heidi Hooten, shelter coordinator at Stepping Stones) and I plan to stay in Menomonie. This town welcomed us when we moved here, and it’s been a great place to live,” Stark said.
“I will miss many things about this job, especially the people I’ve gotten to know - my co-workers, library patrons, county and city staff that I’ve worked with, and the many community members that have served on the various boards associated with the library,” concluded Stark.
Stark will be greatly missed as well.
"Ted has been an outstanding director, navigating the library through some of its most challenging times. It has been a pleasure serving on the board, in large part because Ted has fostered a deep sense of mutual respect, which has served the library well," said Dayle Mandelson, President of the Library Board of Trustees.
“Ted’s accomplishments are too numerous to mention, but his quiet, gentle presence has given us real support as a staff, improved our building and grounds, provided innovative programming and collections for our community. He is a treasure and will definitely be missed.” Sterk said.