Hanapepe librarian Karen Ikemoto retires after 41 years of serving Kauai’s community

HANAPEPE — Becoming a librarian was a decision that changed Karen Ikemoto’s life forever.

“Coming to Hanapepe and my decision to become a librarian was the best decision that I ever made,” Ikemoto told The Garden Island. “I enjoyed my years in Lihue and Hanapepe and it was a wonderful experience for me. It’s a very rewarding career. I got to meet so many people from a variety of places and connect with the community.”

The Hanapepe librarian served the community since 1976, when she began her career as a librarian in Lihue before working in Koloa in 1987, eventually making her way to Hanapepe’s library in 1992. She spent the next 24 years there.

Until Monday.

Ikemoto had a special retirement party which was supposed to be a low-key affair with a few friends.

But once word got out, the community rallied and showed up to celebrate her public service.

“It started as a Friends of the Library thing,” said Susan Jeffrey. “Some of us are in a senior oshibana card-making class that meets on Wednesday mornings at the library, and it kind of started from there.”

She said Sadie Doi, president of Friends of the Library, organized the event but wanted to include more people.

“She got the ball rolling,” Jeffrey said.

A handful of people quickly turned into a baker’s dozen before spiralling out of control. The location of the party had to be changed to the church hall across the street from the library to accommodate the nearly 80 people who attended, including State Sen. Ron Kouchi and Gov. David Ige.

“That was not even expected,” Ikemoto said of the governor’s presence. “It was a total surprise.”

Jeffrey said Kouchi was a student of Sadie Doi’s when he was in third grade and has been a big supporter of the library.

“He and the governor happened to be chatting and he happened to mention a party he was going to go to and the governor was going to be on the Westside for a meeting, and he said that he really wanted to come for her retirement because of who she is,” Jeffrey said.

Overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, Ikemoto found it difficult to put into words what the library has meant to her over the years.

“It was totally incredible. I’m just so grateful for everybody for coming and I just can’t thank everyone enough,” she said. “Connecting with the community, being able to provide services to everyone, to host programs that help to educate and enrich lives was such a rewarding experience for me.”

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