Know Your Library Staff: Karlene Clark

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You’ve met (most of) the librarians who sit at the Ask a Librarian desk (there’s still one interview left from that series), but what about the other staff that you see while wandering (or perhaps striding purposefully) through the library? I’m sure you want to know more about people that help you at the other desks and offices throughout the building, right?

Well, you’re in luck! We’re continuing on to help you get to know the other library staff members, starting with a well-known face from the Access Services desk: Karlene Clark, the Coordinator of Circulation Services & Student Employees.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Minot, moved to Kalispell MT when I was a year old, got a sister (my mother says I was NOT thrilled about this), then grew up in Devils Lake, ND.

If not in Grand Forks or North Dakota, how did you make your way here?

Well, I started by going to college here and loved the community. After graduating I went back to the booming (for the fishermen and hunters) town of Devils Lake. I worked as a 6th grade teacher for a while, then did substitute teaching for many years in everything from Kindergarten (love little kids, but not in the classroom) all the way up to foreign languages in high school (best story there: I walked into an 8th grade German class and had them tell me with smirks that they had to speak German the entire hour. I had 4 years of the language myself and told them – in German – to open their books to the right page and we’d discuss the topic of the day. Jaws hit the floor and they had to back pedal on their decision!). Then a friend convinced me to try for an evening supervisor at the college library. I had always loved libraries, and found my calling! When the opening came for CFL, I just had to try for it!

What is your favorite place to eat in the Grand Forks area and what do you usually order or recommend?

Hm. I’m not really a fan of food. I don’t like green things (I tell people I’d rather munch on a crayon if I wanted something green!), so I guess I’d go for something simple like Happy Joe’s pizza – pepperoni with taco chips on top.

What is your favorite spot in the Chester Fritz Library?

The Dewey Collection. Because it’s the Dewey Collection! I love the young adult books there, but there are days when just going back to a favorite kids book can bring a smile to your face. Sometimes you have to laugh. Some of my favorite books in that collection are Tadpole’s Promise and How to Keep Warm. Neither is quite what you expect! The second one has a page I even featured on my personal FB page.

Karlene Clark standing on a stair landing, looking up
This is me, ½ way up the stairs to the top of Aggstein Castle in Austria (stairs are my nemesis). I made it! And the view of the Danube was amazeballs.

What is the craziest or most interesting job you’ve ever had?

Being a substitute teacher was ALWAYS interesting. Never the same thing twice! But I’ve also been a barmaid, worked the service desk and did the break scheduling of frontline sales associates at a Kmart, Mary Kay consultant (I don’t wear makeup!), Attendant Care worker for troubled youth, Assistant Coach to a high school speech team, and an Interim Director for a library.

What strange skill do you have that many other people don’t?

I am a master at organization! The jobs listed above? I did substitute teaching from 8-3:30, coaching from 3:45-4:45, library 5-9, attendant care 10-1 am and Mary Kay parties on the weekends. My husband (boyfriend at the time) was penciled in, sometimes cancelled!

I am also a trained beladi dancer. I was in a troupe, performed across the state, and participated in Shimmy Mob to raise awareness for women’s and children’s shelters.

What skill or talent do you wish you had?

I can’t whistle. Never could!

What do you think your life’s theme song would be?

I have 3 that have gotten me through. I have battled cancer 4 times (stage 4 each time), and have decided I am a fighter (NOT a survivor) that will always rise, always fight, and live my “bucket list” so long as I’m able.

What book do you think everyone should read and why?

Mine! 🙂 (They’re great fantasy!)

But seriously, The Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey. I have worn out 5 copies of the set over the years. I related to Vanyel on some level when I first read about him; how he never fit in with his family as the “odd one out” with his love of magic and music and things the rest of the family didn’t understand – and wishing I could find a place with others like me, as he did. I also think, as an early book with an LGBTQ character, Lackey integrated it beautifully and subtly into the story line.