In New Lenox, 2016 was the year of the library.
The New Lenox Public Library, which had been looking to celebrate its 15th anniversary since finding a home in the Village Commons, hosted a week-long series of events to mark the occasion and capped off the festivities by hosting an open house on Friday, Dec. 9.
From a scavenger hunt and craft crawl to a trivia competition and Fine Forgiveness Day, a number of community members were on hand to commemorate the library’s milestone.
New Lenox Pubic Library director Michelle Krooswyk said the event’s importance is clear.
“The purpose really is to thank our patrons after 15 years of having the new building,” she said. “It’s really just a celebration of the patrons and to say, ‘this is what you gave us by voting for the referendum so many years ago, and we thank you for that.’”
The New Lenox Public Library is a taxing district that serves approximately 36,000 people.
Krooswyk said finding a more permanent home for the library was crucial for the community.
“Wherever you’re at in any community, I believe that [the library] really is the center of the community,” she said. “It should be a first—at least I want it to be—a first place for people to come when they [have] information needs, when they need connections to resources, when they need to use a computer to apply for a job, to enjoy reading books—the good, old reason that libraries started out as. But, really it’s a center of sharing knowledge and sharing community resources.”
Juanita Lopez, of New Lenox, was of one many in attendance for the library’s celebration and open house. She said she’s glad she decided to come out in support of the library.
“The computer department is very helpful because we do come often to print or do something,” she said. “That’s what I like about it.”
Lopez said she doesn’t have a computer and printer at home to perform such tasks, so knowing they offer that service at the library is useful.
Noting that she has children that are school age, Lopez said that often brings her to the library also.
With libraries evolving over the years, Krooswyk said it serves as a great place for knowledge, lifelong learning and where people can come to enjoy themselves.
“It’s really moved from the traditional storehouse of books and librarian shushing people to really that staying current with technology, being able to be a resource to teach people technology trends, still being that place where you come and grab a book off the shelf and just take it home with you and curl up and read a good novel,” she said.
While the library intends to stay up to date with technology trends, Krooswyk said there is added pressure that comes with that.
“One challenge that we have at this library is we have a fairly small budget for the size of the community we serve, the size of the building, and the number of staff,” she said. “So, there is a pressure to keep up with technology sometimes due to our budget, and at the same time, we have a wonderful staff that takes great initiative and accountability to find ways to get around that with open-source software or free things maybe that Google offers, that we can get things done at discounted or cheaper rates. The staff really makes up for that lack of a budget.”
Deborah Kledzik, of New Lenox, said she and her family enjoy visiting the library.
“My kids are homeschooled, so it gives them opportunity to meet up with other kids, and to do crafts and to read books with them and see what other kids think about the same things they’re reading,” she said.
Noting that she and her family used to come to the library three or four times a week, Kledzik said she appreciates what they provide.
Kledzik said it was important to support the library at its 15-year anniversary celebration and open house.
“Not only do they obviously have a lot of books and things for the kids to read, and videos and things, but they also do things for the community,” she said. “They have book drives and food drives that they provide, as well. So, if they weren’t here, that would be one less opportunity to raise food and things for those in need.”
Krooswyk said library patrons can expect more of the same in the years to come, but staff is also working to develop some new programs.
“I know the Youth Services department is [working on] some makerspace kind of activities to build on our digital media for more of the younger crowds,” she said.
Krooswyk said that new development should align well with the library’s theme for 2017.
“Next year’s theme is “Read by Design,” so all the design, [STEM/STEAM] stuff, we’re looking forward to taking advantage of,” she said.