When Diana Brown began as the director of the St. Charles Public Library in 1978, the business of providing information to the public was very different from it will be when she retires Jan. 1.
"The role of the library, the purpose, is to bring information to people, offer guidance in their research and promote reading. The format of delivering that mission has changed from year to year, and decade to decade, but the basic concept of the library has always been the same. We've always been a community center, and now we are even more so."
Indeed, not all parts of the library feature silence. On a typical day, St. Charles students cram the upstairs tables for study sessions and tutoring help. Small meeting rooms are filled with local people learning English. The first floor computer classroom is filled with people learning the convenience of the Internet and various computer programs.
Brown said the library has focused on being a convenient community gathering place ever since the expansion referendum failed in 2010. Even without that funding boost, library officials have expanded parking and started upgrading to more comfortable furniture. That's a vision and process Brown's successor, Pam Leffler will carry on starting in 2014. Leffler is currently the director of the Morton Grove Public Library.
"She has great experience, and she seems very energetic," Brown said of Leffler. "I wish her the best of luck."
Brown plans to stay active in the community during retirement. She is involved in a number of community groups, and she plans to travel and spend more time with her new grandson. When she steps down, it will be with the satisfaction that she helped build a library she could only dream about as a child.
"I grew up in a town where there was no public library," Brown said. "My mother was a university archivist, and I was kind of inspired by her. I love this job, and I could keep going on doing it forever. But I feel like it's time for some new leadership with a fresh perspective and new ideas."