By John L. Ross
A well-known face at the Laurel County Public Library will no longer be seen.
At least, not at the library.
“I’m not a librarian,” said Carole J. McDaniel, who retires at the end of this month.
McDaniel, who has been with the library for more than a decade, says she is ready to see what happens with the rest of her life.
She always seems to look for the next opportunity.
When she was 18, McDaniel left her parents’ home in LaSalle, Ill., and moved to Chicago. “I met some really good friends there,” she said. “They wanted to move to L.A. (Los Angeles, Calif.), and I went with them in 1962. It was a different time then in a lot of different ways.”
The three women one at a time returned to their homes, including McDaniel.
She said she was fortunate to have lived and grown up in LaSalle. “It’s a totally, totally different place than in this area,” McDaniel said. “It’s been a population of about 10,000 ever since I can remember.
“But it had such an ethnic mix there,” she continued. “It was like Chicago in a lot of ways.”
Being surrounded by a variety of cultures educated McDaniel. “I learned a lot growing up with so many different people being around,” she said.
She was born not long before Pearl Harbor. “That had a very strong mark on my life,” she said.
The oldest of seven children, she left LaSalle again, ending up in New York for a time. Then she moved to Texas.
“I moved there and stayed for for about 12 or 13 years,” McDaniel said. “I did work for environmental engineers, (and during that time) the refineries were having to comply with all new regulations,’ she said.
Thoughts of a college education brought her once more back to her parents’ home in LaSalle. “I wanted to go to school, so I started college at a local junior college,” she said. “I also worked as a waitress.”
But an unforeseen change struck home. “My parents’ house burned,” she said. “Everything they and I owned burned.
“We had nothing.”
McDaniel pushed on with life. “I then found a job in my home town at the former Foster Grant plant,” she said. “I was in the quality control division.”
And it was at this job she met her husband, Jerry McDaniel, a native of the area. The couple wed in 1981.
“At the time, it was easy to find a job and go to work,” McDaniel said. “(He’d work) for these companies and they would move us.”
“So we started moving.”
They ended up back in New York for four or five years. “In 1989 we then moved to Hawesville, Ky.,” she said. Her husband found work in Detroit, but traveling between places became difficult.
She and her husband decided to get closer to their aging family members, especially after losing one of her sisters. “That’s how we ended up in Kentucky,” she said.
They began to help Jerry’s now-deceased father on his family farm, and continue to do so.
“But we’ve been trying to farm and work — it’s been hard,” she said. “We both can’t work full-time and try to farm.
“So I had to give something up.”
And that was her position at the library. “I started here as a desk clerk at minimum wage,” she said. “I love to read. I love books, and I love to learn.”
She considers herself “self-educated” because she said she just wants to learn all the time.
District Director for the library Lori Acton approached McDaniel about taking the public relations position. “I had no idea what I was doing,” she laughed. “I just kept doing it until things worked out.”
But it’s the people that kept her involved. “No matter what you’re doing, it’s the people that make it,” she said. “There are some great people, and they treat us well and ask for help.
“Everybody loves the library.”
She used to select books from across the Dewey Decimal System, but lately she has overseen the selection for the adult non-fiction books. “This was really a dream job,” McDaniel said. “I’ve enjoyed doing that as much as anything else.”
She likes having the opportunity to make the book choices. “I kept the community in mind, and knew I was doing it for the library,” she said. “And really there were no big limitations.”
Once she retires at the end of the month, she and her husband are going to focus on the farm they’ve moved to, which is Jerry’s father’s farm.
“Now we get to farm,” McDaniel said. The farm is near Rockcastle River and has beef cattle on it.
She said she’s looking into organic gardening. But she hasn’t reviewed the parameters of that yet, so she remains unsure.
They are in process of restoring the original farmhouse on the property. “His (Jerry’s) grandfather built the house almost 100 years ago,” she said. “We’ve gutted the inside.”
The work has been a learning process. “You design by the seat of your pants,” she said. “It’s built right on the ground so there’s no level place in the house.
“We’ve learned a lot by doing this.”
Her husband currently works with Kentucky Survey, but that contract is coming to a close.
“We’re at a point where we want to move in another direction,” McDaniel said. “I want to do this (retire) so I can do other things.”
The couple really wants to travel. “We both really like to go to new places and learn new things,” McDaniel said.
Gwen Stivers will be the new public relations person at the Laurel County Public Library. For more information, call the library at (606) 864-5759.