Hokanson leaving for new challenges

Published 10:44 am Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Many years ago, when Ann Hokanson was named an archivist for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, she thought she had found her dream job.

And while she loved the work — collecting and preserving historical material — “there just wasn’t enough human contact for me,” said Hokanson,

Since then, she has worked in libraries from Wisconsin to Slovakia; her most recent position saw her as director of the Austin Public Library for 14 years.

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The public is what she will miss the most, she said, as she leaves Austin to take over the reins of the Traverse des Sioux Library Cooperative, based in Mankato. The cooperative provides support services, collaboration, resources and technology to the member libraries in a nine-county area, including Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, LeSueur, Martin, Nicollet, Sibley, Waseca, and Watonwan counties.

“It’s a chance for me to work in a different aspect of libraries. And while I won’t have that one-on-one like I do now with patrons, or with staff, I will be working to help all the libraries in the region,” she said. “It’s just a different scope. And it will be exciting to think of ways to leverage each of their assets, to realize the advantages that technology will bring them.”

It will mean a big change for the family. Her husband, Peter Jacobs, who works for the environmental remediation company, Bay West, works out of a home office, so the impact is lightest with him. However, the couple’s three children, Ben, a sophomore; Henry, a fifth grader; and Cecily, a third grader, will finish their school before they move. Hokanson will travel to Austin on weekends for the time being and stay in Mankato on the weekdays.

Hokanson has always enjoyed trying new things. The Reedsburg, Wisconsin, native earned undergraduate degrees in history and international relations from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

“I always thought I would be an economist and work in the foreign service, be a career diplomat,” she said with a chuckle. “Then, I thought, a history professor.”

But instead, she eventually followed her love of learning by dropping herself smack dab in the middle of all learning: libraries.

While in Austin, she and staff worked hard to be among the first in the region to provide downloadable books and audiobooks; they were also on the forefront of providing internet hot spots for check-out. That move answered a need in the community when some children, now using laptops from school, still did not have enough bandwidth to power the devices. The library does a brisk check-out of hot spots that provide internet access using Wi-Fi technology.

“And, overall, I believe we have a very modern, high quality collection,” she said. “And thanks to our staff, it is very well maintained.”

She sees libraries evolving into multi-resource centers as education becomes increasingly need-based and specialized. Libraries will play an increased role in serving that population, she said.

There will be many things to miss in Austin, she said.

“There is a wonderful spirit of collaboration that exists in Austin,” she said. “The city has a diversity that really kept us (her family) here. I can’t think of another small town where I would be able to shop at four different ethnic grocery stores. We have five different languages spoken in the library.”

She is proud of her time here.

“What I am proudest of is that we have worked to provide library services to everyone in the community; people from all walks of life. All backgrounds spend time here. Our staff is very open-minded and welcoming — and very thoughtful in programming and resources being developed,” Hokanson said.

Gathering Friday for Hokanson

There will be a farewell gathering at 2 p.m. for Ann Hokanson on Friday, Dec. 16, at the Austin Public Library.

The public is invited to attend and say goodbye to Hokanson, who will take over the reins at the Traverse des Sioux library in Mankato.

Hokanson served as director of the library for 14 years.