Many longtime readers of The Dallas Morning News and the Wall Street Journal knew Karen Blumenthal as a top-notch reporter and editor. But her journalistic story started long before bylines in the nationally regarded newspapers. Her talents were seen as early as her teen years, when she was editor of Hillcrest High School’s award-winning Hillcrest Hurricane and yearbook, as well as being the class valedictorian. At Duke University she was the editor of its The Chronicle and even had time to meet her future husband/fellow journalist Scott McCartney.
It was amazing to think that Karen had time for anything else, but in addition to raising two daughters she was a committed, longtime resident of Lake Highlands and a lover of books. She didn’t just read them; she wrote award-winning books ranging from “Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights” to young adult books.
So it was only natural that she would be interested in the Dallas public library program. But then Karen didn’t take anything halfheartedly. “Frustrated by the library’s budget cuts after the 2008 recession,” she didn’t just get a library card. She joined the Friends of the Dallas Public Library’s board. True to form, Karen rose to chairing the Friends Board as well as joining the Dallas Public Library board.
One of the many accomplishments during her tenure was the getting the 2017 bond package approved by voters. Included in the package was the replacement for the original 9,000-square-foot Forest Green branch that was Dallas’ smallest branch library. On Greenville just south of the Braum’s and north of the Lake Highlands Family YMCA, the new Forest Green branch will be a 19,026-square-foot facility with classrooms and meetings spaces plus a parking lot to accommodate 64 parking spaces.
At the 2019 groundbreaking Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough said, “We don’t name libraries in Dallas, but this one should be named for Karen Blumenthal.”
Karen wrote on social media, “Thanks to many thoughtful and dedicated advocates, a generational project that will impact our community for decades is coming to life.”
Despite construction being underway, the 2021 opening will be a bittersweet occasion due to Karen’s sudden death this past May at the age of 61.
According to Scott, “Forest Green was such a big part of Karen’s life, and it means so much to us to have this wonderful new library become part of her legacy.”
To honor her tireless efforts and inspiration, an effort is underway to “turn a library into a legacy” with a wish list for technology upgrades, interactive learning supplies and furniture for play centers, reading areas and an early literacy station.”
Thanks to $35,000 having been donated to Friends in Karen’s memory, organizers hope to raise more than the projected goal of $85,000.
According to Friends Executive Director Mary Wilonsky, “The city is building a fine new library, more than twice the size of the old one. As a tribute to Karen, we want to turn a good library into a great one that will serve the community in so many ways. This was her vision, and we are proud to carry on her work. We hope to raise more than just the remaining $50,000. Anything over that amount will go toward a permanent endowment to support materials enhancements and programming at Forest Green for years to come.”
Whether you’re a book browser or a true bookworm, why not support a dream that was supposed to be impossible … that is, until Karen made it possible. You can donate here.