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Holinger: Geneva Public Library at a crossroads

Published: Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 5:32 a.m. CDT

Imagine the Tri-City libraries as high school students.

St. Charles, the straight-A, organized, neatly-combed, college-bound overachiever.

Batavia, the Joe Cool, espresso-drinking, black T-shirted, swaggering hipster.

And Geneva, the diminutive, scrawny kid whose head people pat as he tries to shove his book load into his Lilliputian locker.

As the Kane County Chronicle’s “Our View” pointed out Oct. 5, “The Geneva Public Library is at a crossroads ... ” after dropping the option to buy the Cetron building.

Everyone agrees, from library staff to residents I’ve talked to, that the GPL needs more parking spaces. But does it need more interior room? Not all think so.

But the numbers show that many still use the library. The Chronicle reports that as many as 16,728 registered Geneva patrons checked out 568,000 items last year.

At a recent board of trustees meeting, according to the Chronicle, members threw out their ideas. Robert Shiffler suggested a new building on the present site. Susan Shivers wanted to know Library Director Matt Teske’s vision for the library. Patricia Lord encouraged a patron survey.

Director Teske told the Chronicle that after establishing priorities, “ ... we’re going to need some professional assistance in helping us determine our space needs ... .”

It’s evident Geneva needs to do something. We’ve limped along long enough.

Case in point: The few times the library’s smaller meeting room was available, our memoir writers group met there until the stuffy, close, claustrophobic atmosphere drove us to Panera.

If we don’t improve our library, people might get the impression we don’t care about books, movies or culture in general. And we’d be doing our children a disservice.

Why, you ask? Consider this analogy. My basement is full of about 4,000 books. I have trouble convincing my wife, Tia, I need every one.

“You’ll never read them all,” she correctly points out.

“That’s not the point,” I counter, not sure what the point is, but my literary gut believes there is one.

Then, reading what “Freakonomics” co-author Stephen J. Dubner had to say, I rejoice.

“ ... Any family that has 100 children’s books in the home,” Dubner explains, “is likely to be pretty educated to begin with ... and values or treasures or rewards education to begin with.”

Whatever Genevans decide to do – or not do – about our library, it will reflect our values. Do we want to remain that punk kid with no locker space for all his stuff, or do we work as a community to graduate an honors student?

Be heard. Write board President Esther Steel (esteel@gpld.org), Director Teske (mteske@gpld.org) or your local newspapers. Because library aficionados are getting ready to speak their minds at 7 p.m. Oct. 24.

Don’t allow our library to come across as a high school dropout.

• Rick Holinger has lived in the Fox Valley where he’s taught high school since 1979. His poetry, fiction, essays, criticism and book reviews have appeared in national literary journals, including “The Iowa Review” and “Boulevard.” He founded and facilitates the St. Charles Writers Group and has a Ph.D. in creative writing from UIC. Contact him at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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