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Johnson retires after 65 years at TH library

Lois Johnson poses with the cake before her retirement party on Aug. 13. She worked on and off at the Two Harbors Public Library for 65 years before retiring this month. Submitted photo.

In 1949, Lois Johnson was a sophomore at Two Harbors High School with an after-school job. She made $0.50 an hour working at the library in town.

Johnson, now 80, spent many of the 65 years since then volunteering at the library, with some gaps when she had a full-time job and then was raising her son. Even when not working there, she was always a voracious reader and regular patron of the library. Her career came full circle in 1990 when she was hired again as a library aide. She officially retired from that job earlier this month.

"It's been wonderful," Johnson said of her long career. "The people are so good."

On Aug. 13, the library staff hosted a farewell party for Johnson, attended by many of the people she has helped at the library over the years.

Katie Sundstrom, who was recently named as the director of the library, has worked with Johnson since she started at the library five years ago. She said the proof of Johnson's impact on the community is in the pudding -- or in the cake, rather. The attendance at her retirement party was so great that the library ran out of cake.

"She was always very friendly and fun to work with," Sundstrom said.

Johnson said there was always something to keep her busy at the library, whether it was laminating and cataloguing new books or helping customers. She was also the go-to staff person for beat-up books, mending failing spines and damaged covers.

"She is the main book mender. She had a couple disciples she had to train in before she left," Sundstrom said.

Johnson said the biggest change she's seen in her years at the library is the addition of programs, especially those for kids.

"I'm glad to see people bringing all their kids in," she said.

When she was in high school, the library had one program for kids: storytime, during which a librarian would read a book out loud for a group of kids. Now, the library has a weekly movie, a lego club, craft days and performances by kid-friendly artists, among many other programs.

When Johnson was young, though, she and her sisters loved the library, no programs required.

"When we were kids, we always used to be at the library with the neighbor kids," she said. "We'd spend hours in the library."

She recalled checking out books and lounging in front of the library in the sun reading them. It was the beginning of a lifelong relationship with the library, which was constructed using Andrew Carnegie dollars in the early 1900s.

Johnson still checks out books, and even admits she has a couple overdue ones in her living room. She has also has made the jump from paper to digital for some of her reading and just purchased her third Kindle.

Asked what she's currently reading, she says Anna Lee Hubert's Lady Darby mysteries. She gives them a positive review.

Though she will no longer be reporting for work three times a week, Johnson will certainly be making regular trips to the library, she said.

"I'm surprised at the amount of people that don't even think of going to the library," she said. "I don't know how you can not."

LaReesa Sandretsky
LaReesa Sandretsky is a Two Harbors High School graduate and Duluth native who began working at the News-Chronicle in 2012 as a reporter. She took over as editor in 2014. She covers County Board, including the Lake County broadband project.
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