Next up for exploring is the Woodstock Public Library (WPL), one of if not the oldest library districts within McHenry County. While officially dating back to 1856, it didn’t occupy the current building on West Judd Street until 1959.
The Woodstock Public Library is located a few blocks west of the historic Woodstock Square as well as the Woodstock Metra Station.
It is a substantial building whose architecture has a modern feel while maintaining a classical nod.
Address: 414 W Judd St, Woodstock, IL 60098
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 Woodstock Public Library
I sat down with Kate Tripp, Head of Youth Services, to talk about the Expedition. She reiterated that, even though they were all behind the idea last year, they also accepted that the Library Lovers Expedition was a huge unknown. But they went in with big ideas and cautious expectations.
Kate said, “Each library pitched in about $50 worth of gift cards. I put together all these different baskets and we thought, if we can get one person for each gift basket, so that we had eleven winners, we were going to consider that a success. And then at the end of it last year, we had about 700 participants.”
She mentioned that it was also fun seeing how people approached the Expedition. People would map their routes with the little map that was included with the Expedition. Some broke it out over a few weekends and some did it all in one day.
The overall goal for the Expedition is still the same…to get people back into the library post-COVID. Kate says that regular in-person programming numbers aren’t quite back up to how they were before, but it’s still a growing process.
At the time of our meeting in early February, she said that as she was inputting registrations for the Woodstock Library, she was already seeing that people had finished within a week, other than Harvard, which was undergoing renovations during February.
The Expedition is also a great way to show people that libraries are continually changing. So, even if you came last year and you haven’t been in a library since, there are plenty of things that have changed. That might mean, the expected, new materials and displays, but also new programs, or even new toys in the rotunda. And that’s true of all of the libraries.
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And what is Woodstock doing for the Expedition this year?
In talking with the other Youth Librarians about what they were doing, Kate loved the idea of the scavenger hunt, which many of the others are doing So Michala, her Children’s Librarian, found a bunch of groundhog images that they were able to print out and put up throughout the Children’s Library. They then created a little seek-and-find sheet with pictures of each of the groundhogs.
Beyond the Expedition
Kate also shared some ways the library had dealt with COVID and carried over some of those ideas. Like many businesses, they adopted a curbside service. For the interim then, they actually used the emergency exit in the rotunda to run things out to patrons. They’ve continued that and now they have a couple of designated spots up by the front door for curbside delivery where people can pull in, call the library to let them know that they’re out front, and they’ll run out their materials.
She sees this as great for those families that have sleeping kids in the car, or for when it’s just a quick pickup and they don’t want to deal with the hassle of getting kids out and then back into car seats. But also for those with mobility issues in general, or when the weather is bad or it’s freezing outside.
Another area is around programs, such as their monthly online trivia contest. It started as something to do during COVID as a virtual program that people could take part in from home and they continue to do it as an online program.
She also mentions growth in digital assets and services. Kate said, “We have Libby, which used to be Overdrive as a way to get online materials, but then this year we added Hoopla as another online platform where people can get books and TV shows.
While winter is still hanging in, they’ve already set their sights on summer programming. They’re also looking to get back into the schools again doing more outreach programs, which has still been a challenge to do since COVID. They’ve ramped up storytimes in-house again. During COVID, they held those at nearby Emricson Park, and now they are looking at ways to bring outdoor programming to the library itself.
Next, I had the chance to meet with Library Director Nick Weber, who elaborated on some future developments at the library.
Hopeful Addition of an Outdoor Space
He said that the library had been one of a number of local nonprofit organizations that had been bequest funds from the Rosemary Bayton estate. While it would still be a while before it would be created, but one area that is being looked at for some of the funds is toward creating an outdoor space on the library grounds.
Nick said, “One of the things that we’ve always wanted to do more of here, and have struggled with, is doing things outside. We don’t have a lot of space to do it currently, but we could probably carve some space out of the area near the northwest corner of the library to make a small, but hopefully, kind of a cool, fun space to do small events, storytimes, and get-togethers of that kind for 20-30, maybe 40 people tops.
And then also when it’s not in use for actual library events, to have an outdoor space for people to just chill, read a book. They can listen to audiobooks, they can just relax, whatever.” This is really just in the early planning stages and would be a year or more off. But it would be a great addition to the library, and after COVID, the value of these types of spaces may no longer be seen as just a “nice thing to have.”
Nick also shared a community activity that they are planning, which is a massive, 6 feet by 9 feet, 18,000-piece Ravensburger “Magical Bookcase” jigsaw puzzle. It comes in four bags, so the general idea would be to tackle one bag at a time, but then they still have to figure out how to store or keep the completed quadrants in the interim. Of course, they would also want to be able to bring the four completed quadrants together in the end as well.
He admits they have some things to figure out before they can do it, but he is committed to taking it on, especially since his personal record was a 2,000-piece puzzle. So if you like your jigsaw puzzles, be sure to keep your eyes open for that one!
Library of Things
Nick acknowledged that they were a little behind the curve in building out a Library of Things, but that he feels they now have one of the more robust ones in McHenry County. The initial challenge they faced, which most libraries face with it, is how to handle all of the “things,” which may come in all ranges of sizes and configurations that don’t exactly conform to more traditional shelving and material handling procedures.
As you tour the library, you may see a number of these items on display in glass cabinets in the Reference area. And what is one of the more unusual things? A clothes steamer, which he says is extremely popular over a two-week period every spring during graduation for steaming graduation gowns.
Some of the other Library of Things items that might be of interest:
- Outdoor movie kit, including a portable projector, portable DVD player, and a 16-foot inflatable screen
- Metal detector
- Automobile diagnostic code reader
- CO2 meter
- Portable air compressor
- Voltage tester
And not quite within the Library of Things, but another “thing” related happening at the library…knitting and crochet needle exchange. Crazy as it might sound, he says they have a quilting group that comes every month, so it’s a pretty popular thing.
What You May Not Have Known About WPL
When I asked Nick about some things that people may not know about the Woodstock Public Library, he said three things came to mind right away.
The first is something that is in the library all the time, which is that they have a baby grand piano, right there near the entrance, that patrons may actually play. It was donated by a resident through MBI Cares when the previous piano was no longer playable. Nick says this is unique and that there are only seven or eight other libraries within Illinois that can claim this, and fairly unique even across the country.
And it does actually get used! Notably, he says there is a gentleman who frequently comes in Fridays to play for about an hour who has even attracted a bit of a following.
Friends of Woodstock Public Library Mini-Links
At the end of April is the Friends of the Library Group’s biggest fundraiser, the longstanding, annual miniature golf event that takes place inside the library. They put on a full 18-hole course of miniature golf throughout all three levels of the library, including the signature “toilet hole,” which spans two floors! They get local businesses to sponsor the holes, there is a small admission fee for participants, and there are raffle opportunities. It’s just a fun, family-friendly way to help support the library.
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Witches & Wizards of Woodstock
The library is also one of the main hosts for the annual Witches and Wizards of Woodstock, a fun, mystical-themed cosplay-type event. The event is held every year, centered around the Historic Woodstock Square, though has continued to expand to areas further out from the square as well. The event went viral in its first year, attracting around 5,000. Nick says that they haven’t quite experienced that level since, although this past year’s event was probably close.
I would say, so far anyway, of all the libraries that I’ve visited in McHenry County, the Woodstock library reminds me most of a classic college or university library. But then it also just depends on where in the library you are, as each area has its own feel. Be sure to check out the Woodstock Public Library.