Karrie Waarala Named Director of the Saline District Library

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The Saline District Library officially has a new director, but the person filling the role is a very familiar face to staff and patrons alike

It was announced Wednesday that library board trustees selected Karrie Waarala to fill the role permanently after taking over the library's top spot in January on an interim basis. This decision followed the retirement of former director Mary Ellen Mulcrone, under whom Waarala acted as assistant director.

Waarala joined the library as a part time reference librarian in 2015 before being promoted to assistant director in December of the following year.

She said she is overjoyed with the board’s decision.

“I am honored that the library board appointed me as library director and thrilled to have the opportunity to help make the (Saline District Library) the best that it can be for our community,” she said, while also recognizing her colleagues. “I’d also like to thank the staff for all of their hard work throughout the pandemic and the support they’ve shared throughout the director search. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Waarala brings a wealth of experience to her current leadership role.

She has previously served as director of both the Auburn Hills Public Library and the Mendon Township Library, was the Continuing Education Specialist for the Library of Michigan, and also worked at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Waarala also taught writing at Lansing Community College.

For Waarala, librarianship has always been a way of life.

“I grew up right down the street from the library in Milford, Michigan,” she said. “It was my favorite place to be. When I was 10 years old, I didn’t see why I couldn’t be a page like the high school students, and so I marched off to the library to tell them my intentions and they asked if I wanted to volunteer.”

As it turns out, Waarala had a little help in getting a gig there.

“It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I had found out from my mom that she had called the library director and warned her that a very determined 10-year-old was on the way,” she said.

Waarala was working at Lansing Community College when a job notice in Saline caught her attention.

“I was teaching at the time and as an adjunct professor you have to work about three different jobs,” she said. “The opening came open here and I had been away from libraries for a few years and I was starting to miss it. As soon as I started here I realized I wanted to be here full time.”

Waarala said it was love at first sight with the Saline library.

“This library was everything I had missed about being in public libraries,” she said. “I love the small town feel of it, but we have great resources, good support from the community and it’s just a great place to be.”

Waarala said the Saline District Library can even come to feel like an extension of one’s own home or workplace.

“Public libraries have been moving more toward being a third space, a third place. People have home, work or school and I think the library can really be that third place for people,” she said. “We see a lot of folks here doing work, a lot of parents bringing their kids here for story time and then connecting with each other. It can be a good community hub.”

Even though the pandemic created challenges to this dynamic, Waarala said she and her colleagues changed gears and adapted very well to continue to provide unparalleled services to patrons.

“I was so impressed how quickly our staff pivoted during the pandemic and still made so many resources available online to the community,” she said. “You know, we miss doing things in person, but the fact that they’re virtual has really allowed us to expand.”

No where in the world is off limits, nor any subject, Waarala said.

“We did a calligraphy program recently where the instructor was in San Francisco,” she said. “We did a program where a pastry chef in Versailles, France taught us how to make macarons and we wouldn’t have been able to do that face-to-face.”

Best of all, many library resources can be readily accessed right from a smartphone or computer, Waarala said, such as an e-library with downloadable, streamable e-books, audio books, music and movies.

“We’ve really managed to still provide a lot to the community even when we physically couldn’t in the earlier stages of the pandemic,”

Waarala said she is happy to carry on in the footsteps of her predecessor, Mary Ellen Mulcrone.

“[Mulcrone] was great to work with,” she said. “She was always very supportive of the management team. It was a very collaborative working relationship. She’s built a great management team here and she was a pleasure to work with.”

Aside from her work at the library, Waarala has been getting to know her new home town and all it has to offer.

“I just moved to Saline last summer. I lived in Ypsilanti for 16 years,” she said. “Not only did I fall in love with the Saline library, I fell in love with Saline, period.”

Waarala is also a board member with PTD Productions, a community theater group based in Ypsilanti.

Waarala said she is looking forward to meeting more of the Saline community as they walk in the door and realize just how much of an amazing resource the library truly is.

“We just implemented a new strategic plan from 2022 to 2026 and so we’re really looking forward to optimizing the space here more and expanding the awareness of what we’re doing,” she said.

“We’re not just the books on the shelves anymore. Library users who are here day in and day out know us and love us, but reaching the folks who haven’t discovered us yet is a challenge and we’d love for them to know all that we offer.”

The Saline District Library is located at 555 N Maple Road in Saline and via the web at www.salinelibrary.org.

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