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Article posted: 12/27/2012 5:56 PM

Carol Stream library picks new director

By Christopher Placek

A Glenbard North High School graduate who grew up near Carol Stream will become the next director of the village's public library, officials announced Thursday.

Susan Westgate, 52, who now serves as assistant director of the Bartlett Public Library, will begin her new role in Carol Stream on Jan. 28.

The Glendale Heights native and current Elmhurst resident will become the third director in the library's 50-year history, following the tenures of Lynn O'Dell and Ann Kennedy, who was fired by the library board in July after six years in the position.

Westgate, who started her career working for libraries in 1988, said she'll attempt to heal a fractured board by creating "an atmosphere of trust, respect and communication," and improve morale among employees by bringing them together around a common goal.

In job interviews with the library board and management, she says both groups expressed their desire for help in changing the negative perception some in the community may have of the library.

"They just want to kind of change when people say, 'Carol Stream Public Library' -- they're gonna have a good feeling about it and not be thinking about the things they read in the paper," Westgate said.

Kennedy was dismissed by the board in July -- the apparent result of differing views between she and a new library board majority led by President Mike Wade. He had been a longtime opponent of Kennedy's plans to build a new library on Kuhn Road, and disagreed with what he characterized as high taxes and improper spending under Kennedy's leadership.

Kennedy's firing appeared to be the boiling point of long-developing feud on the board between Wade's majority, comprised of members of his Chicago West Patriots Tea Party group, and others, such as Mary Hudspeath, the board secretary and longtime proponent of a new library.

Westgate said she applied for the position because she was looking to take the next step in her career, having served as assistant library director in Bartlett since 2006, head of youth services for the Helen Plum Memorial Library in Lombard from 2001 to 2006, and in the same role at the Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Western Springs from 1998 to 2001.

"I was looking for an opportunity to be a library director," Westgate said. "For my set of skills, I think I would be a great fit for Carol Stream, especially at this time -- with an emphasis on customer service, marketing and the importance I feel libraries provide in a community."

In July, Westgate was elected to a three-year term on the executive board of the Illinois Library Association, whose membership is comprised of librarians across the state.

One of the first initiatives she says she plans to work on in Carol Stream is putting together a strategic plan.

About 15 candidates applied for the position as part of a nationwide search by Alice Calabrese Berry Consulting, a library executive search firm. The library board hired the firm in August at a rate of $100 an hour, with the cost not to exceed $10,000.

Westgate will be paid an annual salary of $90,000 -- which is less than the $105,325 salary Kennedy was paid at the time of her firing. Westgate does not have a formal contract with the board.

Interim Library Director Marilyn Boria, hired by the board in August, is expected to stay on past Westgate's starting date to assist with the transition.

Wade did not respond to a request for comment, but in a library news release, said, "Susan's experience, knowledge and enthusiasm are a perfect match for Carol Stream. She will help us meet the challenges and opportunities that we will face in the future."

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