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Patrons celebrate Evergreen Park Library’s 75th year

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Photo by Kelly White

Evergreen Park Library Director Nicki Seidl wished the Evergreen Park Public Library a happy birthday on Sept. 7 at the library’s 75th anniversary Fun Fest.

By Kelly White

The Evergreen Park Public Library has been bringing the community together through the love of reading for many decades.

The library turned a landmark 75 years old on Saturday, Sept. 7.. Staff members and local residents celebrated with a 75th anniversary Fun Fest at the library, 9400 S. Troy Ave.

Library patrons from all over were happy to be celebrating the momentous occasion.

“I love this library and all of the programs they have here,” said Bernadette Seale, of Evergreen Park. “The library is so beautifully decorated and it’s a very comfortable environment.”

“Staff here is incredibly helpful and personable; everyone is just amazing,” said Leticia Dominguez, of Burbank. “This is my favorite library.”

Evergreen Park Library Director Nicki Seidl takes pride forming personal relationships with patrons.

“In its 75-year history, I am only the fourth head librarian, which speaks to the deep personal satisfaction one derives from directing a library beloved by its community,” Siedl said.

The first library was in a donated building at the alley line behind the Village Hall that had been built during the Works Progress Administration, or WPA days. The space was originally shared by the police after hours to answer phones or police calls. The collection began with only 500 donated books, and the library was open 16 hours per week during 1944.

Amie Martin was a librarian having graduated from the University of Illinois in 1938 and a member of the library board. She was then hired as the first head librarian. There were three staff members in 1945 and they made 75 cents an hour.

In 1954, the library moved to 95th and Homan, a storefront with the owners living on the second floor. In 1958, the library moved to its present location at 94th and Troy, and an addition was completed in 1976. The collection was about 30,000 volumes. Martin was the head librarian for over 30 years. When she died, her family asked that her ashes be scattered on the library grounds.

After the renovation in 2007, the current library is 23,000 square feet, and in addition to a collection of about 65,000 books, the staff lends out magazines, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, ebooks, video games, software, and WiFi hotspots. There are 25 employees and the library is open seven days, 68 hours per week during the school year.

“Organizational capacity grows when relationships within the community are pursued, nurtured, and celebrated,” Seidl said.

A reflection of this is shown by continued community involvement at the library from Evergreen Park natives, including Evergreen Park resident Bob Erlich, who curates a butterfly garden and monarch way station at the library; Chef Mario Palaggi, who leads cooking demonstrations and displays his artwork; Maria Lambton bakes and shares with the local community; the Evergreen Park High School madrigal choir that performs at the library regularly; George Peso, chairman of the Evergreen Park Historical Commission who also plays Santa; Rich Bird, who displays Eddie Gaedel memorabilia; Claudia Parker and Ruth Hoskins, who often snap holiday family portraits right at the library; Kerrie Stone, who actively shares her love of crafts with others at the library; and Kris Morgan, who teaches how to crochet.

“The list is endless of people who live here and share what they know at the library,” Seidl said. “Their involvement builds on our strengths and is the way to make sure programs really respond to what people care about. We share this place at this time, and we are all committed to dedicating our resources toward sustaining a healthy, educated, engaged, and diverse community for our kids. The Evergreen Park Public Library’s role is to encourage lifelong independent learning and enrich the quality of life in our community.”

Saturday’s birthday celebration featured many of the active residents and patrons that help make the library whole.

The celebration offered library and literary-themed activities, including a Clifford the Big Red Dog story time, Chef Mario demonstrating how to make green eggs and ham, a Dr. Seuss escape room, a library history display, and other contests, games, and of course, birthday cake.

“This is our first time here, but we really enjoyed everything they put together for the community to enjoy,” said Bob Tomasek, of Oak Lawn.

“Our library may not be unique, but it is uniquely Evergreen Park, because of its welcoming look and feel, partnerships with individuals, agencies and organizations that expand our program offerings, and social opportunities to connect with friends, neighbors, and kindred spirits in spite of an increasingly isolated world,” said Julie Keaty, special events coordinator at the Evergreen Park Public Library.

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