It’s Thursday, and Karen Chambers, accompanied by her daughter, Kimberly Hilliard, pulls up to the Woodville Public Library, as she has done day after day for more than 30 years.
Today is different, though. She will walk inside the library, in her official capacity as library director, for the last time. There is a little sadness in the air, but it’s time, she says.
“It’s sort of sad,” said Chambers. “But I am ready to start on a new journey.”
Chambers is a small woman, who has had made a big impact on the town of Woodville and its public library. She was born and raised in Paint Rock Valley, at Trenton, a place in the road, she says. She’s a country girl, who never strayed far from her roots.
She married Larry Chambers when she was 19. They had two children, Hilliard and Lee Chambers, 11 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
Chambers moved to Woodville in 1968 and was a mother by 1971.
“I had worked at Sears and finance company in Huntsville,” she said. “After my children were born, I was a stay at home mom.”
She worked as a substitute teacher at the high school, from 1976-1985.
In 1985, the town wanted a library, so they went to work, adding one room at the Bob Jones Community Center. In October, Chambers came to help, hired to work afternoons and Saturdays.
“I did that until November 1991,” she said. “I went to Huntsville to take care of my mother-in-law.”
In September 1993, she came back as the library director, a position she’s held ever since, one of which she takes pride and dedication in. By then, the town had a building for the library.
Over the years, she’s had plenty of help, Chambers says, with volunteers always showing up. She remembers in 2008 when the library got computerized.
“That was hard,” said Chambers. “We had to put 17,000 books on the computer. We had three ladies from the Alabama Public Library come. We had to go through every card to make sure the books was here.”
She says Joyce and Charles Chandler were there, every step of the way. That was a tough time. Her husband of 43 years, Larry, passed away on Sept. 6, 2008.
“After I lost Larry, this place saved my life,” said Chambers.
Chambers said she was always proud of the library’s preschool reading group. In the summers, 85-100 children would participate.
“There was a lot of people involved such as Tommie Boykin and Joyce Chandler,” said Chambers. “Samantha Golden and Sheila Johnson did the preschool reading for five years.”
She dealt with disaster, too. The library flooded in 2004 and again in 2012. The worst might have been 2020.
“We had ladies who spearheaded our fundraising efforts,” said Chambers. “Evelyn Hodges, Joyce Chandler, Beverly Cosby and others really helped. It took us six months.”
Chambers said Scottsboro Public Library Director Laura Pitts also helped get the library back up and running.
“There are no words to say what Karen means to the library community,” said Pitts. “She is the heart of what it means to be a librarian. She’s dedicated, concerned and compassionate.”
Pitts said Chambers has a quirky way of making a person warm up when in the room with her.
“Jackson County and the town of Woodville owe her a lifetime of gratitude for the service she has provided the community for the past 32 years in her various capacities as Woodville’s librarian,” added Pitts.
Chambers said she has loved of her time, here.
“I’ve made a lot of friends,” she said. “I will miss fellow employees and other librarians.”
Woodville Mayor Steve Helms said Chambers is more than an asset to the town.
“She was always trying to help, encourage and inspire young children to be the best they can be,” said Helms.
On her last day here, at least as the director, Chambers begins cleaning up her office and taking personal belongings. She will be fine, she says.
“I will get out and stroll,” said Chambers. “ I want to do some family geneaology and catch up on some things. Laura says I can come help her.”
“I love Karen and all that she brings to the community,” said Pitts. “Aside from being a librarian, she is a warm hearted, caring person who truly loves the people she is around. My life is forever better knowing her.”