Making My Way to the Algonquin Library

Next up in my expedition and tour of McHenry County libraries was a trip to the Algonquin Library where I met with Alicia Parmele, Youth Services Manager, and Kimberly Damitz, one of the Youth Services Librarians. Beating a bit off the beaten path, this was another library that I had yet to even drive by until now.

The Algonquin Area Public Library is also the only library within McHenry County that has two locations. The main library is located just west of Randall Road on Harnish Drive, with a branch location east of Fox River. For this tour (and all photos below), I explored the main branch location.

Address: 2600 Harnish Drive, Algonquin, IL 60102 (main library)

Address: 115 Eastgate Drive, Algonquin, IL 60102 (branch location)

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.

Checking Out What the Algonquin Area Public Library Has to Offer

Alicia and Kimberly were great tour guides and provided a lot of great information…some of which I hope to convey here. Unfortunately, this tour experienced a bit of a hiccup though with the digital recorder. Well, specifically, you might call it a digital recorder operator error.

Apparently, I must have accidentally turned the recorder off almost immediately after starting it, so none of the interview ended up being recorded. Fortunately, I realized this before I left. Unfortunately, it was after I had already met with my tour guides! So much for the perfect record…you can read that both ways.

Library Times Two

What first strikes you with the library is its size. The main library is large, but you truly don’t grasp the scale until you walk inside. While you walk into a fairly compact space, it quickly opens up and you begin to really feel the scale of the building. And that’s all before you realize that the library has a lower level as well.

As mentioned, the Algonquin Area Public Library features two locations. The East Branch location, opened in 1977, continues to operate as a “popular materials” location and will be undergoing renovations. In 2001 though, the Harnish location was opened up to the public as the primary location, featuring over double the amount of space as the previous library.

While two locations provide added convenience, it is also important because the Algonquin Area Public Library services Algonquin, Lake in the Hills, and part of Cary.

A Makerspace Model

Through my interviews with the other libraries, one thing kept coming up over and over again…”Wait till you see the Makerspace at Algonquin.” I believe the Algonquin Library may have been the first in the area to offer up a dedicated space with access to 3D printers and other creative equipment. While no longer the only one, it has clearly paved the way as a model for other libraries to follow and improve upon.

It’s also a great demonstration of how libraries have evolved. For decades, libraries served as a place for information and materials. Librarians themselves also often provided a level of expertise around locating information. As technology grew, we’ve seen more technology labs, or computer rooms, showing up in libraries combined with some level of instructional expertise.

But in many ways, that still served, at the core, as learning and information. Even the new Library of Things initiatives, as cutting-edge as they may seem, are still founded on a material-lending model. The Makerspace seems to stand out as the next level evolution, in many cases bringing together highly specialized equipment, a destination space to work in, combined with dedicated staff who are knowledgeable and trained to operate this equipment, and/or educating others.

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Library of Things

Not to be outdone, the Algonquin Library has also gone full in with the Library of Things as well. Their website features a link on the homepage that will take you directly to a catalog listing of all the items available.

Some of the Things at the Algonquin Public Library:

  • 2 Player Pickleball set
  • 4-way Soil Analyzer
  • Electric Knife Sharpener
  • Thermal Leak Detector
  • Crochet Kit
  • Karaoke System
  • Acoustic Guitar
  • Jewelry Making Tool Set
  • GoPro Hero 5
  • Canon EOS Rebel T6 DSLR Camera Bundle

Specialized Offerings

Algonquin Library has also dedicated part of its space to other specialized interests as well.

Interest in genealogy, like many things, has grown along with the growth of the Internet. As more and more records and historical information has been digitized, the ability to research family history has been placed within reach of anyone with the desire. This is another area where they not only can provide materials access, but trained staff who can help with the process. The Algonquin Library even has a dedicated genealogy blog you can follow.

Along with a classroom-sized technology lab and various classes, patrons can also book time for a one-on-one session for help with using their devices or understanding specific technology services.

A Room for That

While the Algonquin Library has a very open space plan, they have also created several dedicated spaces. In addition to the Makerspace and Tech labs, they have private study rooms on each level, a Quiet Room that also houses the periodicals, and a Creation Center on the lower level that is especially geared for kids’ creative activities.

They also recognize the need for a special space for teens and have a dedicated teen room. From diner-type tables to comfy chairs, this room is set up to be a destination where teens can feel at home in the library. And if that wasn’t enough, it also features a gaming lounge.

Destination for Learning

The library has also carved out space focused on learning with its dedicated Homework Center to assist parents and teachers. Like others, they have also built out a large collection of interactive learning kits, including Theme Kits, STEAM Kits, and STEM Kits. And resources aren’t just limited to the physical library itself, as they also have created a dedicated section on the library website with access to online resources.

Adapting to COVID

Alicia and Kimberly shared how the Algonquin Library tackled the challenge of COVID. Like the other libraries in the area, they set out to continue operations as best they could throughout the challenge. They were fortunate enough to have a drive-up window as well as being located along Spella Park.

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They also have a wonderful patio area on the backside of the library, outside the Children’s area, so they were able to transition storytimes and other activities outside to the patio or to Spella Park. With many patrons homebound during this time, they saw a huge increase in interest in the take-and-make type crafts.

Like most of us, they also found themselves turning to Zoom as a powerful vehicle to navigate the COVID time. Coming out of COVID though, they also seen continued interest in some things, like book clubs. The Algonquin Library continues to evaluate its programs and work with its patrons to better understand how best to serve their needs, whether in-person, online, or a combination of the two.

Next time you are driving down Randall Road, be sure to swing down Harnish and check out the Algonquin Area Public Library.

President and Founder of Identity Developments, LLC, the parent company of the McHenry Life website. My hope for McHenry Life is to create a resource and destination for the residents and businesses of McHenry County alike. A place where residents can discover new places to explore, fun events and ways to spend time, and then share those experiences with others. A place where businesses can connect with existing and potential customers, and not simply market their businesses, but share their own unique stories.

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