New director Archer has big plans for the Cook Memorial libraries

Cook Memorial facilities will be open each Sunday starting July 12

Expanded hours and nicer public reading spaces are just a few of the upgrades new Cook Memorial Public Library District Director David Archer has planned for the facilities he oversees.

Archer also envisions layout changes inside the Cook Park Library in Libertyville and an eventual expansion of the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary this month.

"That building was constructed with expansion in mind," Archer said of the popular facility on the district's south side. "We know the need is there."

Archer took over as director last month, replacing Stephen Kershner.

Archer, a 47-year-old Wheaton resident, has worked at Cook Memorial since 2004, most recently as an assistant director. He'd previously been a librarian and manager during a seven-year stint at the Council Bluffs Public Library in Iowa.

He said the transition from assistant director has been smooth, and he credited the district's 140 full- and part-time employees for making it relatively easy.

"The fact that I have been here for 11 years previously meant I was familiar with the culture of the library," he said.

When Archer joined the Cook Memorial staff, the district was embroiled in a long-standing feud between Libertyville residents and activists who didn't want to see services expand to Vernon Hills and residents of that neighboring town who wanted their own library.

The fight led to nasty elections, heated board meetings and an unusually high profile in the media.

That controversy died down after the Aspen Drive Library was built. Library trustees have since worked together instead of squabbling over such issues.

"It means that we can focus on serving our patrons better," Archer said. "(That) allows us to improve and innovate in ways that we previously couldn't."

Some of those innovations are included in a strategic plan that maps out potential improvements to the collection, programming, facilities and technology for the next few years.

One of the first changes is expanding Sunday service year-round. Starting July 12, both libraries will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. every Sunday. The libraries had been closed on Sundays in July and August.

"Patrons indicated that was something that was important to them, and we made that happen," Archer said of the expanded schedule. "To us, it was a logical extension of our commitment to serving our patrons better."

Another pending change is specific to the Aspen Drive Library. Periodicals will be removed from a quiet reading room there and new furniture will be added to make the space more comfortable. More electrical outlets will be added to the room, too.

"We have so many laptop users in our libraries," Archer said. "You need to have electricity to power up those laptops."

The Cook Park Library also will see some changes soon.

A small area on the first floor dedicated to young adults will be relocated downstairs to give tweens and teens more space, Archer said. A lounge with vending machines and seating will be created in its place.

Long term, officials are going to study expanding the Aspen Drive Library.

"It's frankly too small to serve all the needs," Archer said.

There isn't a timeline or a funding source yet, Archer said. But board members are going to talk about both "sooner than later," he said.

Library board President Bonnie Quirke is an outspoken fan of Archer's.

"Any entity today that doesn't have a long-term vision and a short-term vision is going to run into trouble," Quirke said. "And that's why I'm confident in his skills to lead us."

  Cook Memorial Public Library District Director David Archer envisions more programs for patrons looking to learn more about computers, art and other subjects. Russell Lissau/
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