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Krienke is new Muir Library director

By Staff | Jun 28, 2020

Nicole Krienke took over as the Muir Library director on March 12, right before COVID-19 hit.

Imagine being all excited about your first day of employment at a new job. Now, picture yourself finding out a couple of days into your new job that you would have to be shutting your doors and stopping all business.

Nicole Krienke, the library director at Muir Library in Winnebago, found herself in that exact situation.

Krienke had been hired to replace the previous library director, Heidi Schutt, who had taken a job with the Martin County Library system.

“My first day on the job was Thursday, March 12,” Krienke recalls. “And the following Sunday we got the news we would have to shut down the library. We were closed by Wednesday, March 18.”

It certainly was not the way Krienke had envisioned her first few days as the new library director.

A native of Elysian, Nicole Krienke has a wealth of experience working with libraries, including 20 years with the Janesville library system. She and her husband moved to Winnebago in 2019 and she took over as the director at the Muir Library in March of this year. After being closed for COVID-19, she says she is excited the library is open again to serve members of the Winnebago community.

“Heidi had a wonderful summer program organized,” Krienke states. “And the closing of the library put an end to those plans.”

With the library no longer open, Krienke and the other library personnel took up some other tasks.

“We did some deep cleaning,” Krienke says. “Every shelf, every book, every computer and every piece of furniture was cleaned.”

When the cleaning was done, Krienke moved on to other things she could accomplish in order to prepare for when the library would be able to reopen.

“I took some time to familiarize myself with the library and how it operated,” Krienke comments. “I ordered some new non-fiction books. I put some new labels up to make it easier for people to locate what they were looking for.”

Eventually they were able to resume serving customers on a limited basis.

“We had entry-way pickup,” she explains. “People could call or email to arrange to get books they wanted. I also delivered some books.”

Krienke says she and Schutt went through the list of people who used the library and worked on getting the list up to date.

“After the list was updated, I started calling some of the older people to see if they needed any books,” Krienke shares. “Even the people who did not want a book were thankful for the telephone call.”

The down-time also gave the staff the opportunity to finish cleaning and repainting the back room of the library.

This is not Krienke’s first job working in a library.

She grew up in Elysian and graduated from Waterville-Elysian-Morristown High School. After getting married, she and her husband Dave made their home in Janesville for 20 years where Nicole worked as a branch supervisor in the Janesville library.

The couple then moved to Palmer, Iowa, and she worked as a library assistant in the small town.

“We moved to Winnebago in the summer of 2019,” Krienke comments. “My husband is in the feed business and works out of Mankato.”

The couple has three grown children and are awaiting the birth of their second grandchild in July.

“We liked Iowa but it was too far away from our family,” she says. “Besides our children, who live in Minnesota, my parents still live in Elysian and my mother-in-law lives in Mankato.”

And why did they choose Winnebago?

“We love small-town living. Well, we love it as long as the town has a gas station,” Krienke laughs.

When June 1 rolled around the library was once again open for business.

“It was an unannounced “soft” opening,” Krienke shares. “We did not want a rush of customers coming in that first day.”

Even though Muir Library is open, things are not being done in the normal way, according to Krienke.

“We are limiting the number of people in the facility at one time to eight until further notice,” Krienke explains. “When someone leaves we clean and disinfect the desk, chair, computer or whatever they were using.”

Krienke shares there are many other services Muir Library is offering to their patrons.

“I am still delivering books. If people are uncomfortable venturing out then I am more than happy to deliver the books to them,” she says. “We also have take-and-make bags for youngsters to pick up from the library. The usually contain two projects; some are science related and some are just for fun. We also have a limited supply of take-and-make bags for teenagers.”

Krienke says she is looking forward to life at the library returning to a more normal status and is also thankful for her assistant, Peg Nelson.

“I have booked an author for the fall program with the hope it can happen,” Krienke states. “Our patrons have been very cooperative. They have been fabulous and are just so happy we are open.”