Joan Kahl, R.I.P.

Late last week a former library staff member gave me the sad news that Joan Kahl, another former library staffer, had had a massive stroke and was in the hospital, not doing well. Sunday morning I learned that she had passed away the previous evening. Knowing Joan's views on funerals I wasn't at all surprised to hear that her children Danny and Marcia had decided to honor her wishes and not have any services.

Joan first came to work at Lane Memorial Library in 1974, at a time when there were only six employees working here. I came along five years later, straight out of college and still wet behind the ears, and Joan somehow put up with this young upstart who was now one of her bosses. Joan was no shrinking violet, and was never afraid to let me know when she was displeased with me. I remember one time she literally walked out of the building to head home (for a drink, as I recall!) after we had gotten into an argument over some matter of policy. In the end we worked it all out, as we usually did, with both of us giving a little bit. Most of the time we got along great and I always respected her for her love of the library and its patrons, her great sense of humor, and her willingness to work hard. When the new library was built between 1983 and 1985 the entire staff pitched in to pack and unpack innumerable boxes of books, and Joan was right in the middle of it, as you can see in this photo taken at the time. I think we all had bad backs by the time we were all done!

Joan Kahl

In time Joan was given the title of "Circulation Supervisor," being in charge of the whole business of checking in and out. Sometimes that meant calling people about overdue books. One of our current staff members who worked with Joan loves to joke that when you got a call about an overdue book from Joan Kahl you dropped everything and rushed right down with the book, lest you face the wrath of Joan! While she was definitely not a computer person, she dove right in and had no trouble keeping up when the library automated its circulation system back in 1992. Towards the end of her time here she was also responsible for ordering all the new audio books (on cassette tapes in those days) and large print titles. She made trips to Dearborn House to bring books over to the residents there, and pick up the ones they were done with.

Every year the library would have a book sale or two, and maybe a craft sale, and for a few years back in the early 1990s we held big yard sales, where we asked patrons to bring in just about anything for our sale. I do believe we even got a kitchen sink one year! Joan loved yard sales and was usually in charge of organizing everything, setting the prices, and manning the sales. With many hundreds of books and untold numbers of other items, this was no small  task and Joan did a great job of it, helping to raise thousands of dollars for the library that was put back into the purchase of more books, or some kind of equipment for the library. For years before and after her retirement she also knitted mittens for our craft sales, and I still have two or three pairs that I use every winter.

In 1997 she came up with the idea of turning our spare meeting room, now known as the "Little Room" after former library trustee Dorothy Little, into a senior citizen drop-in center. The town had no such center for its seniors so this little room was very welcomed by a number of our seniors who came to play cards, bingo and just to socialize. Sixteen years later the drop-in center is still going strong and the card and bingo games take place just about every day down there.

At the end of 1998, after nearly a quarter century of employment at the library, Joan surprised us all with news that she was going to retire at the end of the year. Most of us (including Joan at times) thought she'd never leave. But all good things must come to an end. For the next few years she came in occasionally as a volunteer, and continued to help with our book sales and to knit mittens for craft sales. Eventually the Joan Kahl era in our library's history came to a close, but those of us who knew and loved her remember her fondly. She was quite a character at times, but always genuine and a good friend of the library. R.I.P. Joan Kahl. You'll never be forgotten.

- Bill Teschek, April 8, 2013

If you have some memories of Joan you'd like to share on this page, email me at and I'll add them below.

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