Meet the Commissioner: Karen Baldacci
Karen M. Baldacci was appointed in early 2011 by Governor LePage to the Maine Library Commission for a five-year term. Most of us know her as the former First Lady of Maine. She was born in Kittery, Maine and later graduated from Dexter High School. Karen has a BS in Foods & Nutrition (1983) and a Masters in the Art of Teaching (2000), both from the University of Maine. Karen has been a registered dietitian for the last 24 years, working at both Saint Joseph's Hospital in Bangor and for the Bangor Supplemental Food and Nutrition Education Program for Women Infants & Children (WIC). She also taught kindergarten in the Bangor School Department.
Karen's husband, John E. Baldacci, was sworn in as Maine's 73rd governor in 2003. As First Lady of Maine (2003-2011) Karen focused her work on the things that she knew best quality early care education, education issues, nutrition, wellness, family literacy, the cultural arts, local agriculture and gardening. I've had the opportunity to work with many talented Maine people who dedicate their lives to making Maine the special place it is, said Mrs. Baldacci.
Initiatives of the Former First Lady of Maine
Karen is particularly proud of her involvement with Maine Reads whose mission it is to fight for a more literate Maine. Maine Reads provides meaningful programs that teach reading, encourage literacy and celebrate Maine's rich literary heritage. Baldacci was the founder of the annual Maine Festival of the Book which began in 2007. Other notable achievements are the Central Maine Educare Center in Waterville, a pre-school for at-risk children; restoration of the Olmstead New England Garden at the Blaine House with a Green House and the Youth Excellence in Arts Project.
Importance of Literacy and Favorite Authors
Books and reading have always been an important part of Karen's life. Some of her earliest favorite are Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Charlotte's Web by Maine's E.B. White, and James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. Today when reading to youngsters she loves to share the works of Scott Nash, Eric Carle, and Chris Vandusen. She is a major fan of two other Bangorians, Tabitha and Stephen King. She also enjoys the fiction works of Maine's Tess Gerritson and David Baldacci as well as the poetry of Wes McNair, Betsy Shoal, and Dean Vanwormer. She is currently reading the Joe Pickett mystery series by C.J. Box. When asked about the importance of literacy and reading, Karen replied, "Reading helps us to define who we are, takes us to places that others create for us, and enriches our lives. Reading is like the air we breathe, it's vital."