HANAPEPE — Karen Ikemoto, librarian at the Hanapepe Public Library, was prepared to do a presentation of the library system for business people Thursday.
Instead, she was greeted by a room filled with members of the Friends of the Hanapepe Public Library, friends and supporters of the library to a reception honoring her selection as the state’s 2011 Librarian of the Year.
The announcement of Ikemoto’s selection was made Feb. 23 during the Annual Meeting of the Friends of the Library of Hawai‘i on O‘ahu and announced in the Friends of the Library of Hawai‘i newsletter, Holo I Mua.
“The FLH does the selection of the Librarian of the Year and Excellence in Service Award,” said Paul Mark of the Hawai‘i State Public Library System. “They do the selection with support from the Hawai‘i State Public Library.”
During the Feb. 23 meeting, Teri King-Agan of the Kea‘au Public and School Library, Rofina Rivera of the ‘Ewa Beach Public and School Library and Randy Sotsuda of the Kaimuki Public Library were announced recipients of the Excellence in Service Awards and Marlise Tellander the recipient of the FLH Volunteer of the Year Award.
Ikemoto, with 35 years of service to the Hawai‘i Public Library System, is the first librarian from Kaua‘i to be selected for the award.
“I am so honored to have been selected as the Librarian of the Year by the Friends of the Library of Hawai‘i,” Ikemoto said in the newsletter. “I love serving the friendly and caring people on the Westside of Kaua‘i and am delighted they have adopted the library as their gathering place for knowledge, information and activities. I thank the Hanapepe Public Library staff for helping to create a comfortable and inviting environment with some for everyone.”
Among the achievements leading to her selection, Ikemoto spearheaded the construction of a new community meeting room (where the reception was held) and was instrumental in acquiring the new furniture for the room.
“She was invited to partake in the ceremony at the Hawai‘i State Library in Honolulu, Feb. 23,” said Sadie Doi of the Friends of the Hanapepe Public Library. “As soon as the award was presented, Sen. Ron Kouchi called his mother to say how proud he was to hear Karen accept her award. She was articulate and conducted herself so graciously — that’s our Karen!”
Doi said with the award, Ikemoto has been invited to the state Capitol to represent and to be honored as an Exceptional Educator during the Education Week festivities which will be held Mar. 12.
The presentation will be held in the Senate Chambers after which she will be escorted to the House Chambers.
“What an honor for Kaua‘i’s first recipient and a much greater pride for the Hanapepe Public Library,” Doi said.
The soft-spoken librarian graciously thanked her friends and supporters for their help leading to her award, after which Betty Ihara, one of the Friends, urged her to complete her presentation of the Hawai‘i State Library system despite the lack of the anticipated presence of business leaders.
Doi said Ikemoto arrived at the Hanapepe Public Library in 1992, leaving her post as the head librarian of the Lihu‘e Public Library to assume a role below then-librarian Michie Munechika.
“We were fortunate she decided to take Mrs. Munechika’s offer,” Doi said, noting the Hanapepe Library Friends was formed in 1989. “She was a young, attractive gal and we all fell in love with her.”
In January, 1993, Ikemoto took over the reins of librarian following Munechika’s retirement.
“Here she is, today,” Doi said. “The past is history. She is the state’s Librarian of the Year.”
Coming ahead of the free monthly Marine Environment Lecture Series where a Kekaha fisherman was scheduled to speak, Doi and the Friends of the Hanapepe Public Library, including more than a handful of what Doi described as “snow geese,” one of whom arranged to have bright red Friends shirts made for the members, staged a slate of entertainment including the Hanapepe Senior Center’s ‘Ukulele Band, Jack Hada, a 93-year-old veteran from the 100th Battalion, and Leilani, whom Doi said only speaks Hawaiian, not Japanese, and her hula dancers.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.