Vernon librarian says libraries will continue to serve important role
Updated: May 13, 2013 2:11AM
LINCOLNSHIRE — Within six months of her becoming director of the Vernon Area Public Library District in 2009, Cynthia Fuerst and the Board of Trustees began assessing their library’s needs.
Nearly four years later, Fuerst said she’s happy to finally see the fruits of their labor.
Energy-efficient lighting, new shelving for DVDs and CDs and a centrally-located reference desk were implemented in 2011 to complete the first phase of the facilities master plan, which was developed by Fuerst, the library’s management staff and its Board of Trustees in an effort to help the library evolve in tandem with the times.
Phase II will begin on March 9 and include “new spaces for community and collaboration, a cozy quiet reading room, cool new areas for kids and teens, and more,” Fuerst wrote on her blog for the library, called “Fuerst Thoughts.”
Fuerst is excited about the improved space and services the library will now be able to offer the community and believes that it will prove more useful to patrons as a 21st century library.
The library will be closed from March 5 – 9 before temporarily reopening in the Annex behind the main library. The project is expected to be completed by the end of May.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up in Illinois — I’ve always lived in Chicagoland’s northern suburbs.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I got my master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.
Q: When did you start working at the Vernon Area Library?
Q: Where were you before that, and in what role?
A: I was director of the Kankakee Public Library for 14 years.
Q: What initially inspired you to pursue a role as a library director?
A: It was an accident, I guess you could say. I’ve been very blessed and fortunate that my career and path has led me this way…I would never have imagined that I would be a director of a library. I started out as an education major because I loved children and I wanted to teach children at their most teachable moment—the moment in which they grasp on; however, I am a horrible disciplinarian. In college, I worked at the library near my home in the south suburbs. They offered to pay for my masters in library sciences, and I was going to be a young adult librarian, which allowed me to work with kids at that teachable moment before they begin to act up. Kids at library are kids that want to learn. It was a good fit. I worked with school libraries and youth services libraries in eleven county areas. Later on, my boss was helping the Kankakee Library look for a director and suggested that I apply for the role. I did, and within an hour of the interview, they offered me the job. I wasn’t going to take it because I was happy with what I was doing, but my friends, family and colleagues encouraged me to take on the new role, so I did. It was a very positive learning experience.
Q: What do you like about what you do?
A: I like connecting people to the research they need. Information empowers people, but some are being left behind without access to the technology that has so much of that information. Even if you are very educated, if you are not using a smart phone or looking at sites like Facebook or Twitter you’re missing out on a lot of information that’s going out there. Some companies don’t even accept paper applications anymore. Most people have computers, but if you are unemployed and don’t have access to a computer or internet, where do you come to get that access? The library can keep them current and in the loop about what is going on. Our role is becoming even more important in that it allows people the access to that information.
I also like this area because there is such a microcosm of different nationalities and languages from people from all over the world, and it’s exciting to be part of that. We have over 50 people regularly participating in our English as a Second Language (ESL) from a variety of areas. It feels wonderful to help those individuals.
Q: How do you think the role of the librarian has changed over the years?
A: It’s changed a lot. When I received my degree, the internet was not commonplace. Now, the internet has exploded. A lot of things I was initially doing as a librarian was verifying who wrote a book or working with paper card catalogue, simple things like that—so reference was very much a very big service. Now, you type it in and you know it. It’s gotten more complicated, but being a librarian today involves a deeper skill set: You must be a problem-solver and understand how questions work and how to best approach the answer. It’s being a teacher and teaching members of the public how to be good critical thinkers. Just because it’s on the internet at all, doesn’t mean it’s true. Part of our job is to help people be good consumers of information. Our role is very much different, but the same, in a way. We just evolve with the times. We are still keepers of the information and make it available to everyone.