Getting to Know Your Community— Part II: Culture
● By Messenger Library
Culture is the characteristics of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. Today, in the United States as in other countries populated largely by immigrants, the culture is influenced by the many groups of people that now make up the country
Culture is central to the way we view, experience, and engage with all aspects of our lives and the world around us. Thus, even our definitions of culture are shaped by the historical, political, social, and cultural contexts in which we live.
So, what is North Aurora’s “culture?” Some will argue that North Aurora is a “river town” born of hard work, opportunity and innovation. A blue collar culture, if you will. Others might view North Aurora as rooted in Midwestern American culture, pride of home, core values and long term residency prevail. Without question, it is both more.
To find North Aurora’s “center of culture” all signs point to the library, the one institution that embraces all that defines this community’s culture: it’s history, art, learning, language, commerce and music.
The public library as an institution in North Aurora is not doomed to extinction. Contrary to popular media myths that libraries are dead and irrelevant and the book on paper is extinct due to the Internet, the digital age, ebooks, and the proliferation of handheld devices phones and tablets. The library in North Aurora has been responding and will continue to evolve and respond to the needs of the citizens of North Aurora. Its main vision is to inform, connect, and enrich the community of North Aurora.
The library as a cultural institution in North Aurora has been in existence since 1937. It was on May 8, 1937 that Mrs. Emeline Messenger, the library’s namesake, known to children and adults alike became involved with the founding of the first North Aurora Public Library as a project of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) federal aid program. At that time, the staff was all volunteer. The library opened with a thousand books, donated by the Aurora Public Library, Aurora College, the Extension Division of the Illinois State Library in Springfield, and private collections. Fast forwarding to the present, some seventy-eight years later, the library has gone through several evolutions and continues to support the educational, recreational, informational and cultural needs of the community and has become a center for library long learning.
The library is no longer just a warehouse for books—where people come and go. The library today is the community cultural center of North Aurora. Over just the past decade the library has evolved into a technology center, a center for the promotion of literacy, a cultural and community center, and a ‘third space’ for local small business and work-at-home entrepreneurs as well as a place to connect local non-profit organizations serving adults and children. The library staff develops cultural programs and services assisting residents in pursuit of lifelong learning and leisure pursuits.
The library also adds value to the life of the community. In a recent article appearing in a regional newspaper’s real estate column a new resident moved to the area due to the excellent educational institutions and the reputation of the North Aurora library. People view the library as an asset. Its very existence adds value to their lives and the value of their real estate.
The library has also been a supporter of the underdogs in the community; those that are economically disadvantaged, and those with special needs. As a technology center the library assists many residents with technology access who cannot afford a connection within their home. This access connects them to resources to look for work, apply for aid from the state and local government, learn more about computer technology or attend a job search seminars so that they may become gainfully employed thus enabling their family to remain residents of North Aurora.
The library is an early learning and literacy center for thousands of children and their parents throughout the year. Hundreds of young children and their parents are introduced to learning and reading through story times, reading and art programs.
Established on May 8, 1937, Messenger Library is a taxing body within the Village of North Aurora and a municipal library established under Illinois State Statutes (Illinois State Statutes Chapter 24 Act 40 of the Illinois Local Library Act). The library is listed separately on all North Aurora residents’ tax bill as a separate taxing entity. The library is governed by a Library Board of Trustees. The current board consists of a President, Marguerite Treest; a Vice-President, Dr. Mary Beth Hutches; Secretary, William Middleton; Treasurer, Tanya Berley; and trustees Justin Kline, Mark Saperston, and Dominick Leo. The library board approves the annual budget, appropriation, and levy. The Village Board of Trustees in turn approves and files with the Kane County Clerk the annual levy for taxes In order to stagger the terms of office for the Library Trustees an election is held every other year during the state, county and local consolidated election. The next election for the Library Board will take place this year on Tues., April 7. The board’s main charge is to approve and oversee the finances and budget and to approve and shape the operational and personnel policies of the library. They serve as library advocates within the community and to local state legislators and state funding agencies that support the library. The board members do not receive any financial remuneration for their services and time. The board hires and evaluates it’s only employee Library Administrator/Director Kevin Davis. Davis is charged by the board to oversee the day to day operations of the library, its thirty-one full-time and part-time employees and facility.
The board of trustee meetings are held in the conference room of the library (113 Oak St.) on the second Thursday of each month at 7pm. Committee of the Whole meetings (C.O.W) are held on an as need basis throughout the year. Meeting agendas are posted per the Illinois Open Meeting Act no later than forty-eight hours prior to a board or committee meeting date on the library website. Meeting minutes are posted on the website once approved by the library board within seven days following their approval. The general public is invited and encouraged to attend all regular monthly and committee meetings. It is only through active communication and participation by the citizens through the board of trustless that the library can improve and evolve its services.
Integral and at the core of services of the library is customer (or library patron) service and a dedicated and skilled staff. The library staff consists of five departments or service areas with 31 employees (nine full time and 22 part time employees): The Youth and Young Adult/Teen Services department, the Adult, Reference, and Interlibrary Loan Services department, the Circulation, Materials Handling, and Patron Services department, the Technical Services Cataloging and Acquisitions department, and the Administrative or Technology, Financial and HR, and Facility Maintenance Services of the library. The library’s management team has six full-time staff members. The management team, the library administrator, and the board work together on the implementation of new programs and services and the development of the print, online (website/social media), and digital collections for the library.
The library currently holds over 100,000 items and circulates over 200,000 items a year. The Messenger Library and its patrons are also members of the RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Library System (railslibraries.info). RAILS servers the northern half of Illinois and a member of the MAGIC/ RAILS library cooperative computer consortium. The services provided by both RAILS and MAGIC combined provide access to literally millions of additional items (books, cds, dvds, ebooks, etc.) that are reserved using the MAGIC Interlibrary loan and Reciprocal Borrowing computer program and the RAILS van delivery system. The catalog is available 24/7 to library patrons. If a library patron cannot find something at the Messenger Library location, they can have their requested item delivered in as little as two to three days. The patron can also go directly to virtually any library in the State of Illinois that is part of the RBP network of lending libraries. This is extremely cost effective in terms of the use of precious taxpayer dollars and is funded in part by the Illinois State Library and a nominal annual service support charge to MAGIC.
The library is funded through property taxes as its main source of revenue and income (99.8%). Other sources include an annual grants from the Illinois State Library’s Secretary of State Office Per Capita Grant Program, Village of North Aurora Impact and TIF fee payments and State Personal Property Replacement Tax payments via the village government.
The library receives a small portion of income (less than one-half of one percent) through private donations made directly to the library, through an annual used book sale or through the Messenger Public Library Foundation Fund (a IRS 501c3 account) administered by the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley in Aurora (See the website at: communityfoundationfrv.org/fund_profiles-messenger_library.asp).
In 2013 the library received a significant donation of over $100,000 from the estate of Barbara Messenger Tinker. Barbara is the daughter of Library Founder Emmeline Messenger. The Tinker donation helped to underwrite the costs for furniture and technology for the renovated Youth and Young Adult Services department and the expansion and creation of the Barbara Messenger Tinker Youth Programming Room.
In two years on May 8, 2017 the Messenger Public Library staff, board of trustees and the residents will celebrate the 80th anniversary of its founding. The library will continue to change and be agile to respond to the changes in the community and the society as a whole. Its mission must remain to connect, inform, to enrich the community and be the cultural epicenter the Village of North Aurora.
next issue of
Neighbors of North Aurora,
explores how two Park Districts play a critical role in the quality of life in
Part III of Getting to know
your community: recreation.