Mixed group focuses on library

Pioneer Press Online, IL
July 14 2004

Mixed group focuses on library
BY CHUCK FIELDMAN
STAFF WRITER

With a long-range plan for the Elmwood Park Public Library due to the
state in October, director Shawn Strecker figured it was a good time
to get some input from the community.

Instead of writing such a plan herself or having one of the
librarians compose something, Strecker opted to form sort of a focus
group and invite approximately 30 Elmwood Park residents to a May 22
meeting. The result of that forum was a collection of opinions and
information that will be used to write a new long-range plan and a
mission statement for the library.

“I haven’t been here that long, only a couple of years, so I thought
it would be beneficial to invite members of the community for some
input,” Strecker said.

She made it a point to have a good cross section of residents at the
May 22 meeting, including educators, village officials, seniors,
teens and representatives from a variety of community groups.

“We had people who use the library and some who really don’t,”
Strecker said. “There wasn’t a lot of difference (from those two
groups) in what they had to say.”

The first part of the meeting focused on Elmwood Park as a village
and not the library specifically. From there, discussions were
conducted about how the library fits in with opportunities, strengths
and weaknesses in the village.

“Elmwood Park has become a combination of different ethnic groups,”
Strecker said, “and there are a lot of new residents who have just
come from another country. We talked about these people fitting in
and what the library can do to help.”

The biggest surprise to Strecker, she said, was a consistent opinion
about the importance about preserving the heritage of the residents,
regardless of where they came from.

Elmwood Park traditionally has had a very large Italian population.
That still is the case, but many newer residents come from other
places. There has been an especially large increase in both the
Polish and Armenian populations over the past few years, Strecker
said.

“It was very important to everyone that four generations from now
that there still is something to mark the heritage of where people
(in Elmwood Park) came from,” she said.

Strecker said there also was considerable input about how many
Elmwood Park residents feel that the train tracks that run through
the village create a dividing line.

“It seemed that a lot of people feel like it’s almost two different
communities, one south of the tracks and one north,” she said. “And
some of the people who live south of the tracks feel separated from a
lot of things in the community, like the library, which are north of
the tracks.”

Strecker said there was a particular concern from parents of young
children who live south of the tracks because about safety because
train tracks have to be crossed in order to get to the library.

A mission statement is being worked on by Strecker and the Library
Board, as is a new long-range plan, written to cover the next three
to five years.

“The (focus group meeting) definitely was beneficial,” Strecker said.
“It will help us to create a better long-range plan and mission
statement.”

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