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For new library job, she sets up interesting shows

<i>Phil Pfuehler photo</i> Replacing Katie Chaffee at the public library is Carol McClelland. She stands by a poster for the current exhibition, "Project Art for Nature: On the Edge." McClelland is perhaps best known for her therapeutic massage business that she ran for years at two different downtown sites in the 1990s. She has three daughters, including a senior at the high school and a third grader at Greenwood Elementary.

When Katie Chaffee retired as the public library's event coordinator earlier this year, she said it was the job she always wanted.

Carol McClelland was right behind Chaffee in line -- literally. McClelland applied for the same position in spring 2004, but Chaffee was hired.

The second time around was just as tempting and even sweeter, as McClelland succeeded Chaffee earlier this month as the library's new, 30-hour-a-week event coordinator.

McClelland was already happy working as bereavement services coordinator at Fairview Red Wing Hospice.

"I was not looking for a change, but when the event coordinator position came open, I had to yield to temptation," she said. "The possibility was too good to pass up."

Like Chaffee, McClelland sees this as a dream job.

"It gives me a chance to use a lot of generalist skills and to play in different arenas," she said. "I get to work with artists, which I love. Also, what we do here really speaks to the cohesion of our community, and I consider myself a community organizer, so my role at the library fits with that very high value that I have for community.

"There is writing, communication and PR that goes with this job, such as designing promotional materials. I get to be in the thick of it all and that's exciting."

The library event coordinator schedules and promotes exhibits and shows that rotate in and out of the lower level gallery.

"We are truly blessed to have this space as a core resource in our city," McClelland said. "I want to acknowledge Katie's brilliant work as my predecessor, especially in the areas of history and heritage. She will be a hard act to follow."

McClelland hopes to find and present thought-provoking, unusual exhibits.

"I would like to push people's edges a bit, give them a chance to explore and experience hot topics from all the angles," she said. "There's a lot changing in the world, and the library has a role to keep up with and even anticipate how those changes affect our lives."

McClelland said her favorite annual gig in the gallery, the Community Arts Show, will appear again shortly.

"It's a non-juried, multi-media show that allows everybody a chance to bring in a piece of art, from pottery and painting to glassworks and sculpture," she said. "It's the very definition of community inclusivity because it let's anyone show their talent. All they had to bring in is one piece of art, which is less intimidating than a whole body of work."

This year's Community Art Show runs Nov. 7 to Dec. 12.

McClelland says a prestigious traveling show will set up in late January for six weeks. It's a Smithsonian Museum Main Street exhibition called, "Key Ingredients: America by Food."

McClelland admitted that attendance could be better for gallery exhibits. Steering library patrons to the lower level is on the front burner.

"I'm working on ways to draw attention to that stairway leading down," she said. "On my wish list is to get a solar electric sign for outside the library that would announce our exhibits. Getting such a sign, however, would be very expensive."

McClelland urges library users to plan for occasional visits for browsing the lower level.

"People tend to use the library on the fly -- looking up something, grabbing a book and then heading home," she said. "My plea is to take an art-gallery moment, to slow down and set aside time every so often when visiting the library to come downstairs, see what's here, to look around, breathe easily, reflect and enrich yourself with something you find beautiful, interesting or maybe just educational."

And McClelland needs more volunteers. The work is easy and short.

Volunteers staff the gallery counter in two-hour shifts when McClelland isn't working. These are from 4-8 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, and a three-hour shift from 1-4 p.m. Sunday.

"Even high school students can work here and do their homework," McClelland said. "There's a computer at the desk and Internet access."

Volunteers monitor the gallery and also keep attendance figures. If interested, call 425-0905, ext. 123.

Finally, McClelland welcomes feedback on what people want to see shown in the gallery.

"I'd like to make a general solicitation of ideas for future exhibits," she said. "This could include those who have historical collections, like a model-train enthusiast, or any type of old collection that's hidden away that we could use for either a display or as part of a larger exhibit.

"I would prefer exhibit ideas that from the community, rather than generated from the inside at the library. So, please, let me know what you think because I'm looking for a lot of input."