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Article updated: 2/12/2014 3:52 PM

Gurnee library director retiring, plans more family time

By Bob Susnjara

Saying he wants to spend more time with his family and pursue other interests, Stephen Bero is retiring as the longtime executive director of Warren-Newport Public Library in Gurnee.

Bero, 59, has overseen many changes in his nine years as the library's boss. Among them was a significant renovation and expansion that was completed in 2011.

Library board trustees are expected to conduct a nationwide search for Bero's successor. In an interview, Bero said his departure won't occur until July 31 so the board will have enough time to land a new executive director.

Bero said he plans to become a "househusband" when he retires because his wife wants to re-enter the workforce. Bero expects to be plenty busy at home in the daytime with a son entering first grade next fall and a 1-year-old boy.

"It sounds like a cliché, but I want to spend more time with my family," said Bero, whose retirement was officially announced Wednesday.

Outside of his duties at home, Bero plans to get involved in music again. He said he didn't have time to continue in music because of the demands as Warren-Newport's executive director.

"I was a performer," Bero said. "I was a member of an a capella group for many years."

One of the highlights of Bero's Gurnee library career was the 14-month, $8.7 million expansion and renovation that added 4,800 square feet of meeting room space and created new study rooms, a computer laboratory and an area dedicated for teenagers.

Warren-Newport spokeswoman Janice Marsh said Bero is a "terrific leader" who has been well respected and warmly regarded by staff.

"From the hard work of the construction project ... to the celebration of being named a top workplace for three years running, Steve has led the way with vision, good humor and hard work," Marsh said. "Marching in the Gurnee Days parade without him this summer just won't be the same."

Bero, who has worked at public libraries for 23 years, became known to Daily Herald readers when columnist Burt Constable wrote about the librarian's struggle to bring Lily Zheng to the United States from China so she could become his wife.

After 3½ years of red tape, long lines and bureaucratic barricades, Zheng received legal permission to depart China and start a new life with Bero in Lake County. The couple married in a simple service at the Lake County Courthouse and Administration Building in Waukegan in 2006.

Founded by volunteers in 1973, Warren-Newport Public Library serves about 67,000 residents. The library's 55-square-mile boundary covers all or most of Warren and Newport townships, including Gurnee, Wadsworth, Park City, Wildwood, Grandwood Park, Old Mill Creek, and portions of Grayslake, Millburn, Lake Villa, Libertyville and Waukegan.

Twitter: @DHBobSusnjara

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