JACKSON — Libraries have always been a part of Tamera Erickson’s life.
From weekly visits to the library as a kid, to an after-school job, Erickson’s transition to a professional job as library director seemed a natural fit. It proved to be a fruitful career for the longtime Jackson resident, who is retiring after 38 years of dedicated service to the Jackson County Library System.
“I’ve been so fortunate to have a job that I’ve loved it from the day I started to the day I’m done,” Erickson said, adding that she’s ready to move on to the next chapter of her life and allow new people to create new ideas for the library.
Although her final day on the job isn’t until Dec. 31, a retirement open house will be hosted in her honor from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at the Jackson Library, 311 Third St. A snow date is scheduled for Jan. 10.
Erickson’s love for libraries was instilled in her at a very young age. She remembers making weekly visits with her mom, Ave Ann Petersen, who she described as an avid reader up to the time she died at age 92.
As a teenager, Erickson took an after-school gig working at the library. She worked there until she graduated and moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
She received a higher education degree in accounting before returning to Jackson to raise a family. She was drawn back to the library, which she said was a good fit part-time as she raised three young children.
After serving as interim director three times, Erickson became the permanent director in 1993. Since that time,she’s managed the Jackson, Heron Lake and Lakefield libraries.
Although her formal education was as an accountant, Erickson said that came in handy as she worked year after year to prepare and manage a budget. That was presented and approved by Jackson County commissioners, who she said were among those that supported the library system.
“I’ve been fortunate to be in a county where library service is important to them and they see the value of library service in communities,” she said. "(The library) has been fortunate in way of funding and local support.”
Over the past four decades, much has changed in how libraries look and function. Among the most noticeable differences Erickson notes is the onset of technology and how that changed staff duties and how the public uses the library, as well as the social environment.
Libraries were once a place people visited, checked out books and left, Erickson said. But now when people visit the library, they come to stay for a while.
“The library is now a social place,” Erickson said, adding that the library has many more programs for people of all ages. “It’s a place for people to go to have conversations with other people, let their kids play, work on the computers and do school projects together.”
Looking back on nearly four decades of time spent at the library, Erickson’s favorite memory she’ll hold on to throughout retirement is the relationships she’s made. Whether it's co-workers, library board members, patrons and county commissioners, Erickson considers herself fortunate to have formed special friendships over the years.
Erickson is approaching retirement with a “play it by ear” mentality, though she knows spending more time with family — including 13 grandchildren — and helping more with the family business are definitely among two top plans for retirement.
“People think I’m crazy, but I’m looking forward to working with (my husband, Jim Nesseth) in our sheep business,” she said, laughing. “Right now I don’t get to spend much time out there, and it’s something we like to do together.”