After 13 years as head of the much-loved Vernon Area Public Library District, Director Cynthia Fuerst will retire later this spring.
The search committee of the Vernon Area Public Library Board of Trustees will meet on Wednesday, January 26, to discuss plans for a comprehensive search for the next library director — a task for which they may seek the assistance of an executive search firm.
Fuerst intends to remain in her role until later this spring. No firm departure date has been set. “I wanted to give the board plenty of time to ensure that this will be a smooth transition,” said Fuerst.
“On the one hand, the board is very sorry to see Cindy leave,” said Library Board President Marc Fenton. “She has been a tremendous asset to the library and our community, and for that, we are thankful. But we are happy for her and excited for her next chapter. She will truly be missed but we wish her well."
Fuerst has served as director of Vernon Area Public Library since January 2009.
During her tenure, Fuerst has overseen several library building improvement projects, the most recent of which took place in 2021. “A drive-up service window was a wishlist item on the long-term plan,” said Fuerst. “When the pandemic forced the building to close, it became an immediate priority.” The library opened the new contactless service window in July 2021.
Another bold change instituted by Fuerst: In 2015, Vernon Area was among the first public libraries in the Midwest to eliminate overdue fines for patrons. “No one likes library fines. Not borrowers, not libraries: no one,” said Fuerst. “We decided it was time to rethink that approach.” Vernon Area’s successful fines-free program has since been replicated at many other U.S. libraries.
Prior to taking the helm at Vernon Area, Fuerst served as director of Kankakee Public Library for 13 years. She was nationally recognized by trade magazine Library Journal as a "Mover and Shaker" in 2005. She served as president of the Illinois Library Association in 2018.
“It has truly been a privilege to serve at this exceptional library,” said Fuerst. “It has the winning combination of a supportive Board of Trustees, a dedicated management team, talented staff, and a community that values education. It is well positioned for future success. I am confident that the board will find the right person to be the next library director, and I sincerely look forward to seeing what comes next for Vernon Area.”
Residents in the Lincolnshire–Buffalo Grove area are invited to drop off “Hearts for Heroes” at collection bins at Lincolnshire Village Hall, Buffalo Grove Police Station or the Vernon Area Public Library drive-up window or Youth Services desk through Monday, February 6.
“Hearts for Heroes” asks local residents to buy or make Valentine’s Day cards for local first responders, healthcare workers, veterans, mail carriers and their own personal heroes.
“Taking some time to create a special message for the people who keep us safe, healthy and connected is a thoughtful way to thank them for their service,” said library spokesperson Janice Kellman. “The library is happy to be part of coordinating this expression of thanks from our community.”
Cards for first responders will be distributed to fire and police departments in Lincolnshire and Buffalo Grove. Cards for veterans will be distributed to local veterans by the office of Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10).
Residents are encouraged to distribute their cards for their mail carrier on their own and to create and send cards to others who they might feel especially grateful for right now, such as teachers, childcare workers, delivery drivers and other personal heroes.
A PDF file with templates and dropoff instructions are available for download from the library website.
Vernon Area Public Library is counted among America’s Star Libraries for 2021, as recently announced by Library Journal. The distinction places the library in Lincolnshire among the top 4.6 percent of all public libraries in the United States.
America’s Star Libraries is an annual ranking of public libraries by Library Journal. The index scores libraries according to amount of use, including visits, circulation, program attendance, public Internet computer use and circulation of electronic materials.
Among the more than 5,800 public libraries assessed for 2021, the top performers — "Star Libraries" — are assigned three, four, or five stars, much like Michelin Guide ratings. The result is a short list of public libraries nationwide that demonstrate the highest level of engagement with their communities. Vernon Area Public Library District received three stars.
2021 Star Library status was awarded to just 261 libraries nationwide, 15 of which are located in Illinois. Locally, Barrington Area, Ela Area (Lake Zurich), Mount Prospect, and Northbrook public libraries received recognition along with Vernon Area.
The 2021 scores and ratings are based on data collected from July 2018 through June 2019.
Ronald H. Balson is a celebrated author and a local resident. His novel The Girl from Berlin won the National Jewish Book Award and was a selection for Illinois Reads. He is also the author of Eli’s Promise, Karolina's Twins, The Trust, Saving Sophie, and the international bestseller Once We Were Brothers. His newest, Defending Britta Stein, was published in September.
Q: Attorney, author, professor...what was your first job?
A: My first job after college was teaching elementary school in Chicago. I taught special education to teenage boys in a Chicago public school for seven years and I loved it. During that time, I went to law school at DePaul University at night. After graduating, I began practicing law, but I didn’t stop teaching. I taught business law at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business in their evening program for twenty-five years.
Q: What's your favorite Chicagoland destination?
A: Perhaps Chicago’s greatest asset is to be located alongside the world’s nicest freshwater lake. We have had an open-bow boat since the kids were little, and we have always enjoyed the water and the beaches.
Q: Which authors do you most enjoy reading?
A: My interests lean toward history and historical fiction. For that reason, I enjoy reading Leon Uris, Herman Wouk, James Michener, Jon Meacham, and Doris Kearns Goodwin. For her style and use of the language, I am a big fan of Joan Didion. Because I am writing a story about Roosevelt and World War II, I am currently reading No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Q: What inspired you to start writing?
A: It seems as though I have always been a writer. I was an editor of my high school and college newspapers. I have been writing briefs, memoranda, and appeals as an attorney for forty-nine years. In the back of my mind, I think I have always had an urge to write creatively. The “inspiration” or “motivation” to write my first novel came when I was involved in a telecommunications lawsuit that took me to Poland. It’s pretty hard to spend time in Poland and not be moved by its history. After my time there, I wrote Once We Were Brothers about a Polish family during the war.
Q: What do you hope your readers take away from Defending Britta Stein?
A: The story of the Danish people and their courage during the Nazi occupation is unique in World War II history. As a country, they rose up together to resist the German takeover of their society. When the order was issued by the German command to deport all the Danish Jews to a concentration camp, the Danish people, acting as a whole, hid all their Jewish brethren from the Gestapo, and shuttled them by fishing boats to safety in Sweden. In Defending Britta Stein, I have attempted to convey the essence of that Danish spirit; that although Denmark was subjugated militarily, the Danish spirit was never conquered.
Q: Is there someone who particularly inspires you?
A: I am continually inspired by my wife and children, who do great things every day.
This interview appeared in the fall 2021 edition of Library Quarterly
Pulitzer Prize–winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario will speak about her experiences covering the conflict in Afghanistan in an online event on Sunday, November 21, at 2 p.m. The event is sponsored by multiple Chicago-area libraries and nonprofit organizations.
In the online presentation, Addario will discuss what life was like especially for women during the Taliban's rule, how life has changed for Afghan women over the past 20 years, and how Afghans are reacting now. Her talk will be accompanied by some of the powerful images captured during her work in Afghanistan. Award-winning interviewer Steve Edwards, formerly of WBEZ and the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, will moderate the conversation.
Addario was a member of the New York Times team awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for the photographic essay “Talibanistan.” In making the award, the Pulitzer committee noted the perilous conditions under which the work was performed.
In addition, Addario is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” and in 2015 was named one of five most influential photographers of the past 25 years by American Photo Magazine. She is also the author of the bestselling memoir It’s What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War.
“Both Lynsey’s experience and her photos should provide an awareness of events in Afghanistan,” notes Beth Keller, marketing specialist for Highland Park Public Library. “We’re thrilled to be able to bring an event with her to our communities, especially in light of current events.”
Throughout the pandemic, local public libraries including Highland Park and Vernon Area have hosted many online events. The videoconferencing format allows attendees to engage, learn, and connect in a safe and accessible way. Such is the idea with the event featuring Addario.
Says Heidi Smith, executive director at Highland Park Public Library, “Our upcoming event with Lynsey Addario represents a wonderful opportunity to gain insight into a current world situation. By bringing such outstanding speakers such as Addario to the community and partnering with other libraries in the area and across the state, we’re able to offer our communities access to important speakers, their ideas, and their work.”
“An Afternoon With Pulitzer Prize–Winning Photojournalist Lynsey Addario: Picturing Afghanistan” takes place on Sunday, November 21, at 2 p.m. The event is hosted by a group of 20 libraries and nonprofit organizations across Illinois. There is no charge to attend, but registration is required. To register, visit VAPLD.info/calendar.
The library offers an English Conversation Partner program to give language learners a chance to speak and listen in a casual setting. Students are matched with volunteers for an hour of online conversation, up to twice a month.
Since last fall, learner Kyounghee Lee and volunteer Nancy Chen have been meeting regularly on Zoom. Lee, whose first language is Korean, wanted to keep practicing English. “Since the pandemic started, it was hard for me to find chances to interact with people outside [my home],” said Lee.
Chen has been volunteering at English as a second language (ESL) classes for 11 years, seven of them at Vernon Area Public Library. She describes the conversations as an extension of the classes. Learners “can ask any questions, ask us to repeat or slow down, or explain American traditions,” explained Chen. “They can have conversations tailored to what they want to talk about, while listening to the native English speaker’s pronunciation and cadence.”
When Lee and Chen connect online, they discuss whatever comes to mind — “family, cultural traditions, health, good restaurants, movies, life during the pandemic!” said Chen. Lee, too, enjoys chatting about “anything and everything” including life in the United States, her previous job, current hobbies, and topics related to Korea.
“We take speaking English for granted, with all its irregular verbs (is, are, was, were) and its idioms (cold turkey, cat got your tongue),” said Chen. “What you give by just speaking English is a gift to others who are in a new country, away from their family and friends, trying to navigate American culture and English.”
“We are all stronger if we are willing and able to help others in our community. When my great grandparents arrived in the U.S. from China in the 1880s, I wish they were able to be supported by a community like the library’s ESL program,” said Chen. “I volunteer in their honor, to ease the path for other recent immigrants.”
From Lee’s perspective, the program is “a good opportunity to improve English communication skills, meet people in the community, and learn more about life and culture of America and other countries.” She has found that the conversations give more benefits than expected. “It served as a great source of emotional support during the pandemic. Whenever meeting the partners online, I feel that I am not alone...that we are in the same shoes, cheering up each other.”
To request a conversation partner or find out more about this program, visit VAPLD.info/LearnEnglish.
This article appeared in the fall edition of the Library Quarterly.
Every academic year, youth services staff from the library visit all local schools. They speak to thousands of students in first through eighth grade, one grade at a time. The “Book Talks” shine a light on current books, picked just for students. The idea is to encourage children to explore what interests them, to read for fun. The Book Talks also remind kids that the public library has lots of great books and friendly people who are ready to help.
Spring 2020 brought the in-person visits to a halt as schools moved to remote learning. But the Book Talks carried on, just in a different format. When the school year began, Vernon Area librarians were ready with short videos for grades 1 through 8, all available on YouTube. Each Book Talk video is presented by a youth librarian who tells students about two or three books, with a new video each month.
The book recommendations for K–8 are available anytime at VAPLD.info/BookTalks. A page for each grade lists books of the month, fiction picks, graphic novels, and nonfiction ideas for higher grade levels, along with a new video installment each month.
Kindergartners get their own video series, Book Bites, featuring Miss Julia reading stories perfect for budding readers. Each short storytime ends with a few suggestions for picture books to check out.
Cathy Park Hong gives life to many voices. She’s a poet, author, professor, mother and nationally in-demand speaker since the 2020 publication of the critically acclaimed Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning. Part memoir, part cultural criticism, Minor Feelings is composed of seven essays that have been described as a “new sound, a new affect, a new consciousness.”
Our colleagues at Arlington Heights Memorial Library interviewed her in preparation for the upcoming Cathy Park Hong author event we are hosting with AHML and 20 other neighboring libraries. She shared these insights about her work, upcoming library appearance and her recent rise in the national consciousness.
Congratulations on being selected as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2021” — what has that been like receiving this honor?
I’m humbled. It’s been…I’m just really over the moon and also a bit overwhelmed but it has also been a bit abstract at the same time as it has happened during the pandemic, so you know for instance, when I did talks or corresponded with readers of the book, all of it was through social media or email or Zoom, and so even with the Time magazine cover, it’s almost like it’s happening to an avatar and not me.
What inspired you to write Minor Feelings?
The seeds of the book have been on my mind for a long time, and I actually wrote about the inspiration back in 2011. I was watching a comedy special starring Richard Pryor and it was revelatory and I was thinking, why isn’t there anything…I was craving that kind of raw honesty in thinking about Asian American identity, so that was the first seed. Then I became pregnant in 2014, and I realized when I found out I was having a daughter that I didn’t want her to have the kind of childhood that I had. I wanted her to be comfortable with the skin that she had, and you know, actually having her made me really think about, in a much more visceral way, the future of race relations. So that added an urgency for me to start this book, to write this book, which was initially conceived as a book of poems.
So what was that process like, “flipping the channel” so to speak, to be writing a memoir versus poetry?
Something about the lyric form was too constrictive. I wanted to have some satirical notes in the poem, which didn’t come across quite as well in the lyrical form, and I realized for it to work, I needed to unfold my thoughts into prose which was a much more capacious genre for me to go from being funny to being serious to jumping from a historical anecdote to a personal anecdote. Basically, I needed more room to stretch out, that’s why I turned to nonfiction, which of course produced a lot of anxiety because …I have had some experience writing politics articles and reviews and so forth, but it was like I basically learned how to write nonfiction by writing this book.
Did you know the timeline or order of the essays when you began writing?
I didn’t know what the order was, I just followed whatever it was I felt compelled to write about.
In fact, I was really scared to put them in any kind of order because I didn’t map it all out beforehand and my fear was that the essays would be just utterly disparate and have nothing to do with each other. But I realized, and I always tell my poetry students when they are putting their books of poems together, that your intuition is smarter than you think, that you are creating these thematic threads between poems or between short stories or between essays, even unconsciously, and I discovered that was the case with this book of essays.
What do you hope attendees will take away from your event?
I hope that after the event…that what I have to say about my book, and being Asian American, and race relations and capitalism…that it’s not a finished conversation, and that afterwards they seek out other writers and figures of color. I really hope that it piques their curiosity if they are new to the subject.
This interview was edited for length.
After-school tutors help are great for students striving to achieve mastery — and a great resource for tricky assignments or when parents and peers aren't able to help.
That's why this library offers Tutor.com for all students: online, on-demand access to qualified tutors at no cost.
Log on using your library card at VAPLD.info/tutor for one-on-one tutoring help with algebra, calculus, statistics, chemistry, physics, English, foreign languages, and other subjects. Or work with a tutor to prepare for exams, including AP and college board tests. There's even a "drop my paper off for feedback" feature.
Tutor.com is a service of Princeton Review. This handy resource is available to Vernon Area Public Library cardholders every day from 2 to 11 PM CT.
At the board meeting on Monday, October 18, Vernon Area Public Library trustees voiced support for a plan to make two electric vehicle charging stations available to the public in the library parking lot.
The library plans to purchase two Enel X “JuiceBox 32” Level 2 charging stations to be installed by Chicago-based Verde Energy Efficiency Experts, L3C. The stations are compatible with all electric vehicles (EVs) currently on the market, including Teslas. Each EV station provides up to 7.7 kilowatts of charge per hour, powering approximately 25 miles of driving range depending on the vehicle.
The library plans to assess a per-hour user fee to those using the EV charging stations. The stations are expected to pay for themselves within five years.
Library trustees reacted enthusiastically to the proposal.
“Any small step I can be a part of that helps to systematically fight climate change and have a better world for the future of our children, I say let's go,” said Library Trustee Max Boton.
Library officials will submit the plans this month to the Village of Lincolnshire for review and approval. Officials hope to have the EV stations installed sometime this winter.