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Ashton: A unique perspective on a library's importance

Published: Friday, July 18, 2014 10:38 a.m. CDT
Rick Ashton is the director of the Downers Grove Public Library

Mark Zipoy doesn’t look like a typical library supporter. He’s at least six and a half feet tall. He usually wears blue jeans, work shoes and a hard hat that makes him look even taller. He has a big personality to go with his big stature and his big job as site superintendent for Shales McNutt Construction, the capable management firm running the Downers Grove Public Library’s building renovation project. He’s a no-nonsense guy who is dedicated to getting things done.

So I was delighted to hear Mark’s report of a recent conversation with some of his neighbors near Elgin, where he lives. They are located just outside the territory of the Gail Borden Public Library, the stellar institution that serves Elgin and surrounding areas. Gail Borden is giving Mark and his neighbors an opportunity to join up. An annexation question on the November ballot will ask them to decide if they will be included in the service area, pay the appropriate property taxes, and receive the full benefit of an outstanding public library’s collections, staff, technology, and facilities.

When a neighbor expressed the common belief, “Everything is on the Internet. Nobody needs a library anymore,” Mark recounted his experience of working at the Downers Grove Public Library for the past several months.

He has seen the hundreds of children crowding in for the activities of the summer reading program. He has seen the astonishing volume of book-borrowing and book-returning that goes on every week. He has heard librarians and other staff members assisting our customers with book-finding, question-answering and computer-mastering. He has built the conference and study rooms that will soon be available for use by students, business people and work teams. He has felt the appreciation that members of the community have for their library, cheerfully accommodating the noise and disruption associated with the ambitious project that he is leading. He let his neighbors know that lots of people still need and still use the library, for lots of reasons.

Mark was careful to tell me that he had not urged his neighbors to vote one way or another. He just provided them with additional information – an additional perspective – that they might want to consider. Most of all, he let them know that his own appreciation for the work of the public library had grown with his own work in a library. And I made sure to tell him that the feeling is mutual.

Rick Ashton is the director of the Downers Grove Public Library.

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