It’s Never Too Late for a New Purpose

It’s Never Too Late for a New Purpose: Former teacher opens a new chapter in her life

By Hannah Cole

One of the most popular books at a tiny library in Eau Claire is flying off the shelves. The series is called “The Walk,” a story of a man who lost his family and business and decides to walk from Washington to Florida to try to find his purpose. The woman who runs the library is much like those who visit it—retired and on a new journey, a new chapter of life.DSC_0658_WEB

Karen Alexander is a residential librarian of sorts, overseeing the self-started library at Grace Willowbrook Assisted Living. In a small room that serves as the library, the former Eau Claire teacher has packed the shelves with over 400 books. She noticed that residents had a hard time reading the few fine-print paperback books that sat on the shelves before, so she replaced them with large-print books; they are easier for the residents to read and hold on to.

Her love for reading continued and a library began the day she moved into the community five years ago.

“I had been reading novels for about nine years before I moved in here and I brought a couple of paper bags full; before, there were five large-print books in the building,” Alexander said.

The in-house library saves residents a trip to the downtown public library. Books of various genres occupy the shelves, but the majority of them are fiction.

“When you get to this stage in life, people want something to enjoy,” Alexander laughed, “We’re not as interested in learning anymore as we used to be.”

DSC_0660_WEBThe library is frequented so often that Alexander created a check-out and check-in area to keep track of them all. Although there are no fines for overdue books at this library, Karen has been known to come knocking at residents’ doors for missing books.

Alexander will also deliver books to residents living on different floors and if someone new moves in, she picks a few out and makes a delivery.

“This wouldn’t have been without the support of the administration,” Alexander said. “It’s really impressed me how they allow us to go ahead with something like this, whether it’s gardening or whatever, and develop things on our own. It’s really positive for somebody who has a lot of time on their hands.“

Alexander added, “It’s never too late to start something new or to pick up a new hobby.”

Grace Willowbrook is a certified RAC (residential apartment complex) assisted living residence owned by Grace Lutheran Foundation in Eau Claire, Wis. Find out more at 

This article used with permission from Queen of the Castle Magazine (C)2015. Please request permission before reposting in full.