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Library job gave retiree start to a career

Careerwise, Linda Johnson came a long way in a relatively short amount of time.

Twenty-one years after Johnson began as an aide in Ellsworth High School's library, she's retiring as the librarian there. Inbetween, the St. Paul native got two degrees and worked for three area school districts.

"When my youngest started kindergarten, I started here," she said Wednesday, referring to son Trevor, now 25 and of Prescott. She and husband Dave have another son, Jeremy, who's 28 and of Cottage Grove, Minn.

Her parents originally drove the city girl to Ellsworth, upon which she decided she liked the small town, she said. The local school that would later be home to most of her employment was smaller than Harding High School, from where she graduated, and where science and history were her favorite subjects.

Attending UW-River Falls for the first of three times, Johnson took basic courses.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do," she said.

She held a variety of jobs while her spouse launched his teaching career, at D.C. Everest Middle School in Wausau for three years, she said. Then, he brought his skills as a teacher to the former Ellsworth Junior High School (he's also retiring locally this year), leading to her three-year stint as a 20-hour-per-week EHS library aide.

"It was closer to home," she said, pleased with that development.

Working in the library apparently satisfied her, too. She returned to UWRF and gained a library science degree in 1989, she said.

Johnson landed a librarian's position at Hudson High School, spending two years at that facility before it experienced its present student population explosion, she said. Another two years were at Prescott High School, getting her work closer to her family, who by this time were living in Ellsworth. Meantime, she had gone back to UWRF again to obtain a masters degree.

Then, Librarian Don Stellrecht, who was at EHS when she was an aide, retired and she was hired.

"I came back just in time to be with my boys at the high school," she said.

The EHS library has changed over the years, Johnson said. Automation has been a major improvement, as has the library's relocation from the east end of the building to the new addition in 1999. She had input into drawing the interior plan for the new site, larger than its predecessor, which had been shared with the guidance office. She was interested in achieving line-of-sight from her desk to most space in the new quarters, arranged even after an architectural need for support pillars complicated the process.

The new library has an adjacent computer lab, too, she said. Previously, a year's worth of magazines had to be saved at all times for students to use in doing research, but the computer changed all that.

"We had maybe six Apple computers in the old library," she said.

Johnson said she'll soon have a third grandchild and will enjoy being with family more in retirement. She likes to travel, having been to Europe, Asia, a lot of Canada and most of the U.S. (she was an organizer of the local "Travel Buddies" group), but wants to catch up on work at home first. She and her retired mate will be able to relax at their cabin near Strum, however.