The second stop on my expedition was the Fox River Grove Memorial Library, where I had the pleasure of meeting with Elaina Komala, the Library Director for the Fox River Grove Memorial Library, who explained their participation in the Library Lovers Expedition (LLE) and shared insights into their library.
The Fox River Grove library is conveniently located in downtown Fox River Grove, just over the railroad tracks across from the Fox River Grove Metra Station.
Housed in the building of a former bank, it has a oneway drive on either side of the building leading to and from the parking lot that extends from the rear of the building.
Don’t let its small footprint fool you though as it has a below-grade lower level as well.
Address: 407 Lincoln Ave, Fox River Grove, IL 60021
This article is part of the Library Lovers Expedition articles, all of which will be linked from the Library Lovers Expedition article as they are published.
McHenry County Library Lovers Expedition at the Fox River Grove Memorial Library
Elaina explained that this was the first year that they were participating in the Library Lovers Expedition and she was completely on board when the staff asked about joining in. While it does involve some extra work and coordination, much of it easily ties into things the library would be doing anyway…regardless of the Expedition, Youth Services would be decorating the Youth area around some theme and the Adult Services would have some Take-and-Make kit they’d be creating.
So really, it’s all upside potential. And clearly, it’s paid off. Dana, the Youth Services Manager, told me that they’ve had quite a few stop in for the Expedition who had never visited the Fox River Grove library before.
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And the benefit here is reciprocal between the libraries. While library card holders have a “home library,” which is the library for their community that issues them their library card, but they can walk into any library and checkout materials with that card. Fox River Grove has more limited hours compared to some of the larger libraries, so she the Expedition introduces their cardholders to other libraries that might serve as good secondary options.
Likewise, it exposes their space to other patrons who might like a change of scenery once in a while, especially those with kids who might welcome a new environment and different books or toys to occupy their little ones.
So what’s in store for Expedition visitors?
The Youth Services area had been transformed into a “life-sized” Candyland board game. Starting from the information desk, there are colored squares snaking their way throughout the aisles, and different sections are decorated with the Candyland theme. Fortunately, the Youth area is on the lower level, with two stairways featuring closed doors to minimize noise transfer between the levels. Children can experience the library while having fun and being a kid.
Adult Services, located on the main ground level, wanted in on Library Lovers Expedition as well. Try your hand at creating a fox origami bookmark (everything included) or enjoy one of the Take-and-Make kits. February featured felt heart brooches and I suspect there will be a St. Patrick’s Day-themed one in March.
Beyond the Expedition
Though not the smallest library, they’ve definitely worked hard to maximize as much of the space as possible. This of course requires a careful balance of providing multiple work areas as well as comfortable seating areas, while also maximizing the shelving areas for materials.
And today’s libraries, Fox River Grove included, have collections that extend beyond the traditional book and audio-video media, including kits and physical objects that require more space.
Serving the Needs of the Community
“I think the library will always be a community hub. Maybe it started as just books and it’s evolved into so much more, and we still provide,” said Elaina. None of the area libraries are archival libraries, and with a robust interlibrary loan system, they don’t need to be. Instead, they continually poll patrons for requests and recommendations, as well as monitor the community for needs and mine the library community for what the other libraries are doing, what is trending or fading out.
What are some things on offer that might surprise patrons?
- Free notary public service
- Free exam proctoring
- World languages section of foreign language children’s books
- Check out fishing poles, including a bag of lures and things from Illinois Fish & Wildlife that you get to keep
- Offer a jigsaw puzzle exchange (no library card required)
- Basic cooking program for middle schoolers
- Take-and-Make craft kits
- Storytimes offsite at Dream Riders equine therapy farm and the new “Read With Me” program at the library, partnering with Soul Harbor Ranch to bring in therapy horses and dogs
- Various STEM, Literacy, and Sensory kits
- Playaway Launchpad Tablets and Internet-enabled tablets
But ultimately, it all comes back to what the Fox River Grove community needs.
Even here, they’ve seen an increase in Ukranian refugees and Russian speakers, in addition to other ethnicities that may have already been part of the community. Those patrons want their children to be able to learn their native languages, so there is a growing world languages collection within the Youth Section.
They were also recently awarded a grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, which has helped to expand their collection of sensory items in the Youth Section. Combined with their collection of manipulatives, which are items that help children learn how to move and order things to make them fit, these learning tools all help with early child development.
But this isn’t just child’s play.
They utilize services like Libby to serve up ebooks, digital magazines, and audiobooks; Axis 360 for ebooks and audiobooks; and Hoopla, which also has ebooks and audiobooks, but also provides access to digital comics, movies, television series, and music. While also maintaining what patrons already love, such as a robust DVD collection.
And continue to evaluate other options, like pre-loaded Roku devices or the “next big thing,” to make sure they are staying current with the needs of the community.
They continue to evaluate which things that became necessary during COVID are also worthy to continue, such as curbside or home delivery, or continuing to offer the option for some programs to also have a remote component for those who are unable or prefer not to come in person.
In this way, Elaina sees the library as similar to the commercial segment…it’s all about customer service, making sure patrons feel welcome, have a great visit, and their needs are met.
The Fox River Grove library also has one large meeting room space that also serves as their storytime area. Thanks to a sensory grant, they recently added some additional alternative seating options for children who find it difficult to sit for longer periods in more traditional seating. In the summer months, they also like to utilize local parks for some outdoor storytimes.
But the library and staff have also stepped up in other ways to serve the community.
Dana, the Youth Services Manager, was asked by the village if she would go to their tree lighting dressed as Mrs. Claus and maybe read some stories. That snowballed into Dana appearing as Mrs. Claus on the fire truck during the Santa parade. Followed by Dana dressing up as Mrs. Claus to go visit the seniors at their holiday party.
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In the end, they just want to serve the community as best they can, whether patrons wish to come into the library in person or just access it remotely, whether attending programs that way or just utilizing digital services. And no matter who you are, they likely have something you’d be interested in.
Be sure to check out the Fox River Grove Memorial Library.