Heading up to McHenry, I made my way to the McHenry Public Library, which I have driven by plenty of times but never stopped. Perhaps you have done the same. I sat down with Jen Einoris, of Youth Services, and Diane Gaudio, of Adult Services. They gave me the lowdown and a tour of the McHenry Library and the great services and programs they have to offer.
The McHenry Public Library is conveniently located on Front Street (Route 31) a little south of the intersection with Route 120.
Address: 809 Front St, McHenry, IL 60050
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 McHenry Public Library
Jen introduced me to Eddie the elephant. Eddie is a fairly large elephant puppet who is helping out with their Library Lovers Expedition’s youth activity. Each week of the event, Eddie finds a new place to hang out in the library. The week I was there, he was really into learning all about sea turtle rescue.
Diane assured me though that adults could have just as much fun with their book selfies activity. No searching is needed for this activity. They set out a number of books with faces on their covers and encouraged everyone to find one they liked to take a “cover selfie.” Just hold the book up to your face in a way that matches up with the book cover and snap a selfie.
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Beyond the Expedition
A new project that really has everyone excited about is their new Story Walk that is being created at Knox Park. A story walk combines the outdoors with a story, laid out page by page on storyboards along a path. Stories can be changed out to reflect the time of year or related events.
To kick off the Story Walk, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony planned for Friday, April 7, at 10:00 am, held by the McHenry Library in conjunction with the Bear Family Restaurants and the McHenry Park District.
Diane said that one of the things the library was known for is its extensive genealogy and local history room. Thanks to generous donations from local genealogical organizations, they have created an extensive collection of resources and have a room at the library dedicated for this.
Best of all, not only do they provide this genealogical and historical “library within a library,” but they can also assist you in how to go about the process of researching your own family history.
New ESL, Citizenship, & Local Authors Sections
Always changing and growing, the McHenry Library just added some new sections near the magazines.
One is to help people learn English as a second language, and related, a citizenship one to help people on the road to citizenship. They were also adding a brand new section that is going to feature local authors.
Library of Things…and Other Things
Like a number of the other McHenry County libraries, the McHenry Library has also amassed a collection of useful things and “tools” to help patrons address needs and solve problems. They’ve tackled the problem of handling and displaying these things by creating a wall kiosk with flyers that detail the things that can be checked out.
Some of the Things at the McHenry Public Library:
- Mobile hotspots
- Roku Ultra
- Chromebooks with mobile hotspots
- Refracting and reflecting telescopes
- Media conversion, including USB cassette converters, video capture, and film-to-digital converter
- Fire Kindles for kids
- Clear View Magnifying Machine
Related to the Library of Things items is their collection of specialized items.
Jen said they had received a $2,000 grant from the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) that helped them build out their collection of over 30 different STEM kits. Housed in portable totes, the kits contain a specific STEM-related activity.
They went one step further though by including a cross-reference card within the tote that included information on related materials they have to help encourage additional research and learning.
Binge Boxes & Calming Kits
They are also developing their own collection of in-house kits.
While there are prepackaged binge boxes now, where you get a collection of DVDs of movies or series shows to “binge” on, Jen will be building out their own version of binge boxes for kids.
They also recognize that there are other challenges they can tackle to help patrons get the most out of their library experience. One that has gotten considerable attention lately is sensory overload, especially for kids.
For those dealing with sensory overload, or who just need some help calming, they are creating calming kits that may include things like noise-canceling headphones and fidget toys. These will be available at the help desks and in the media rooms.
Just in time for summer vacations! Even better, this is a custom program for any vacation.
With a few key details, like how many kids, their ages, their interests, and where they’re headed, Jen will put together a customized vacation bag that may include things like coloring pages or books related to the area where the family will be vacationing.
Like most public libraries now, what they offer goes well beyond books and materials, which have themselves expanded considerably. In fact, the thing that is often the most unique and defining about any individual library now isn’t materials but the programming they create and offer.
Diane says she has been doing programming for Adult Services for 10 years now. One of the things that changed over the last few years was the addition of Zoom programs. While we have all experienced a little Zoom fatigue, Zoom has also provided another dimension when it comes to library programming.
In addition to programs, both adult and youth, that they hold within the library, they now also offer Zoom-based programs that aren’t constrained by space availability or limits that in-house programs are. These may also be useful for those who can’t easily get to the library.
Similarly, they have also created some video-based programming that allows patrons, or anyone, to watch online at their convenience. Jen says they have a mini-masterpieces art program for 3 to 6-year-olds where some of the videos have gotten over 1,000 views a week!
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Diane said that not only do they have a huge anime, manga, comics, and graphic novels collection, but they have been holding their own comic con type event for over 20 years. Held in October, it includes a costume contest, an art contest, a giveaway, and they even have vendors and artists who come in for it.
Even during COVID, they kept it going, though they had to limit it to a take-home bag and held the costume contest over Zoom.
Summer Reading & Lunch
If warmer weather wasn’t enough to look forward to, then the Summer Reading & Lunch program does it. The library has partnered with the Northern Illinois Food Bank for several years now to provide this program to not only encourage reading, but to help make sure that kids don’t go hungry when they aren’t in school.
Working together, the library provides the location and the food bank provides free lunches during a time when some families struggle to get by.
While the McHenry Public Library has an impressive media collection and set of programs, its High School Diploma Career Online program was what really blew me away. Diane explained that potential enrollees apply, take some tests, and undergo an interview as part of the process. If accepted, the library covers a portion of their schooling.
For many, it can be a powerful, life-changing program. and they go all out. They offer a graduation ceremony if the participant wants, including officiators and graduates dressed in graduation robes. In the past, she said that one graduate brought her family with her to set a good example and encourage them in their own schooling.
Needless to say, it is a very empowering program that not only benefits the participants but the community as a whole.
Of course, the McHenry Public Library District has so many more resources and programs that I haven’t even touched on here. Be sure to make your way to McHenry and check out the McHenry Public Library.