Lombard library director's goal: New library

 
 
Posted1/18/2015 7:45 AM
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  • Michael Prince, 4, of Lombard shows his brick building skills to Barb Kruser, the new director of the Helen Plum Library in Lombard. Kruser is already making significant changes and has expressed her desire to get a new building constructed.

      Michael Prince, 4, of Lombard shows his brick building skills to Barb Kruser, the new director of the Helen Plum Library in Lombard. Kruser is already making significant changes and has expressed her desire to get a new building constructed. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Helen Plum Library Director Barb Kruser painted a wall of her office bright lime green, which she says is her favorite color. The librarian she is taking steps to get a referendum on the ballot in 2017 for a new library building.

      Helen Plum Library Director Barb Kruser painted a wall of her office bright lime green, which she says is her favorite color. The librarian she is taking steps to get a referendum on the ballot in 2017 for a new library building. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Barb Kruser stands in front of a construction area at the Helen Plum Library in Lombard that will reopen this spring as a new early literacy area. Kruser is pleased with the renovations, but is looking to get a referendum on a new library building.

      Barb Kruser stands in front of a construction area at the Helen Plum Library in Lombard that will reopen this spring as a new early literacy area. Kruser is pleased with the renovations, but is looking to get a referendum on a new library building. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Barb Kruser, the new director of the Helen Plum Library in Lombard, right, talks to youth services associate Cate Loveday.

      Barb Kruser, the new director of the Helen Plum Library in Lombard, right, talks to youth services associate Cate Loveday. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Helen Plum Library Director Barb Kruser has been in her new position for less than six months, but she is already taking steps to get a referendum question for a new building on the 2017 ballot.

      Helen Plum Library Director Barb Kruser has been in her new position for less than six months, but she is already taking steps to get a referendum question for a new building on the 2017 ballot. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

From the time she interviewed for her job last year, Barbara Kruser made it clear she wants a new library built in Lombard.

"I really want to increase our programming, but the space is an issue right now in our current building," she said from her lime green and purple-accented office on the second floor of the Helen Plum Memorial Library.

The director already has made significant changes to the building, including the addition of seating areas near the entrance and a revised policy for checking out new books.

A renovation of the youth area and construction of a new adult services desk also has begun.

But Kruser is thinking even bigger.

She has plans to introduce more programming, even if that means getting creative and meeting off-site at area restaurants and bars.

She's trying to get the word out that the library isn't just about books anymore -- it offers everything from genealogy classes to career help.

She's also in the very beginning stages of getting a referendum question on the ballot in 2017.

"I've made no secret about it," she said with a smile, adding that plenty of people have laughed at her ambitious goal.

In 2004, about 56 percent of voters rejected a request to borrow $23.5 million to construct a new facility on the current site, near the corner of Maple Street and Park Avenue.

Kruser is aware of the failure and said she doesn't want to scare people off with a proposal for increased taxes.

"I'm new to Lombard. I don't want my first exposure to them to be 'give me money,'" she said. "It's a huge campaign ... it's getting your staff on board, getting talking points together, getting out in the community. What you really want to do is get a plan together."

So, Kruser is planning to start hosting forums at the library and around the community this year to talk about the idea of a new building. She is encouraging any community groups that want her to speak to their members to give her a call.

Kruser estimates that only 35 percent of village residents have a library card.

"The people who come in here love us, but I know there's a part of this community that are not cardholders and I just want to get out there and find out why," she said. "Is it because of distance? Is it just because they see no use for a library? I'm not sure."

Kruser said the Helen Plum Library was constructed in 1963 and an addition was completed in 1978.

She is in the process of getting estimates from architecture firms to see how much it would cost to get feasibility studies done.

"If we did any work in this building, it would have to get up to code, and it would be very expensive," she said.

Another option could be to expand onto the empty lot to the west, but Kruser said that won't address the odd configuration of the current building, or all the needs she feels should be met.

If a new building is constructed, there are several components that are a must, Kruser said. That includes updated technology, a teen area, more study and meeting rooms, an auditorium and computer training labs.

She also would like more windows that look out on Lilacia Park.

"In today's libraries, you create spaces where you come in and experience the library, you stay here," she said of her vision. "That's why we make comfortable spaces. We don't want rows and rows of books. We want you to stay here and enjoy the whole experience."

While working at her former job at the Niles Public Library, Kruser helped get a new building and significant renovations funded.

She said the Helen Plum library board has been "encouraged" by her ideas.

"They're excited but cautious, because they're like, 'Do you think you can make this happen?' I'm like, I'm a different director than (former director) Bob (Harris). I was the one out in Niles stomping the ground, talking to community groups, really talking this up," she said.

Kruser realizes it's a big undertaking to get a new building constructed, but she also thinks there will be support.

Plenty of people, she says, already have told her "it's about time."

"My whole thing is just, it's all part of being a community," she said. "We're a community service and if you want to live in the community, you should support the community services."

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