It’s been a whirlwind year for Shelley Tougas and the Hudson Area Public Library.
Shelley Tougas was working from home as a children’s author when she first applied for a part-time position with the Hudson Area Public Library.
A friend in the library field lectured her about all the financial issues, history and more.
“And I said, relax, it’s not like I’m going to be running the place,” she said.
Five years later, she is the library’s new director.
And months after official landing the position, disaster struck. A hailstorm in September seriously damaged the building. It has been closed since as workers make repairs. The staff has begun curbside pickup of library materials and moved activities to facilities around the city.
The official designation as library director wasn’t anything new for Tougas. She had been serving as the interim co-director, along with now Assistant Director Madeline Page, for a year. The two stepped into the interim positions in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a funding crisis for the library.
“We had the support of our board, and we have this amazing, professional innovative staff, and they didn’t blink,” Tougas said.
The funding problem has worsened since Tougas first joined the library, but she doesn’t regret getting involved.
“We have this team -- a phenomenal staff, board, Friends of the Library and the Hudson Area Library Foundation -- and we are all focused on the same goal, which is to secure the future of the library,” she said. “If I didn’t think we’d achieve that goal, I wouldn’t have applied for this job.”
She knows the job will be tough. The joint library has been underfunded for years, and without change the reserve budget will be gone by July 2022.
The storm damage worsened the problem.
A severe storm passed through the Minnesota metro area and parts of western Wisconsin early on the morning of Sept. 17, including Hudson.
The Hudson Area Library posted on its Facebook page the morning of Sept. 17 that it would be closed due to storm damage. It has not reopened, although it is providing services and activities.
Tougas was contacted early that morning and arrived at the library shortly after 5 a.m.
“I was stunned,” she said.
It had appeared that the beach house roof had blown into the building and the upstairs windows shattered. Though the rest of the building seems to be intact, Tougas explained that the library is waiting on word from engineers as to the state of any structural damage.
“We will want and need community support in the coming weeks,” Tougas said. “One thing the pandemic prepared us for was a closed building.”
Full curbside service to pick up library materials became available in November, and programs are being held off site thanks to support from the Phipps Center for the Arts, the YMCA, the Hudson School District, Hop & Barrel, Faith Community Church and Urban Olive & Vine. Community members can find dates and locations on the library’s website, Facebook page or give the library a call at 715-386-3101.