ST. CHARLES – Throughout all the changes the St. Charles Public Library has experienced in the last several decades, there has been one constant: Norm Huntley.
Huntley – who is described as a true leader who has the library’s best interests in mind 24/7 – joined the Board of Trustees 45 years ago this month.
The 77-year-old said he never expected his initial term would lead to such a tenure. One reason kept him seeking re-election, he said.
“I loved it,” Huntley said. “It was constant progress.”
When Huntley became a trustee in April 1969, the library was – in his word – small.
During his tenure, which included 37 years as board president, the library has been remodeled and expanded, sometimes at the expense of existing homes.
“Houses [were] right where we’re sitting here now,” he said in a room off the lobby.
The houses were either demolished or relocated – an effort that required a lot of coordination, Huntley said. He noted he was familiar with families that were affected because he was principal of nearby Lincoln Elementary School.
Now-retired library director Diana Brown, who was hired under Huntley’s leadership, said he is a good source of library history and why certain decisions were made. She described him as a consensus builder who has true concern for the library.
“He had such a clear vision of what he wanted the library to be,” Brown said. “He communicated that very well to the board and the staff. I think it was a really successful partnership because of that.”
His vision included being a leader in technology, Brown said, echoing comments from Huntley himself.
Those who ask why libraries are needed anymore think libraries are just for books, Huntley said. There is always something going on at the library, he said, naming teen study nights and children’s story times as examples.
“I go back just before World War II,” he said, listing various technology that didn’t exist then. “You see the changes [in libraries] come about as technology advances.”
Huntley said he has been part of a board that wanted to be responsive to the community, which in 1978 voted to convert it from a township library to a library district.
In 2010, voters made another decision regarding the library.
They rejected a $35 million referendum that would nearly double the 55,000-square-foot facility.
Huntley said he views that outcome as a failure because of taxes – not as a failure for the library. When he sees that the majority of patrons are happy, he said, “You know that something good is going on.”
As for the library’s future, Huntley said, the board will continue to respond to the community’s wishes.
“We welcome input,” he said.
In addition to being supportive of the St. Charles Library Foundation – which was established under his leadership in 1993 – Huntley always has had a great deal of respect for the staff, Brown said.
Five years ago, the board recognized Huntley by naming the main meeting room the “Norman C. Huntley Meeting Room” – an honor that “indicates how much respect and fondness we have for him,” Brown said.
Huntley stepped down as board president about five years ago because he felt his health would limit him from making the public appearances that the president needed to do as part of the referendum process, said Tory Haines, his successor.
She said she had some “pretty awesome” shoes to fill.
“He has been a great mentor to me as far as my position as president,” Haines said. “He’s been very helpful, very supportive, very encouraging to me and at the same time always ready to assist me if he thinks that I should be doing things differently, but always in a kind and supportive way.”
Huntley, who also worked at such St. Charles schools as Munhall and Fox Ridge, retired from his career in public education in 1994, he said. His term on the library board expires next spring, but he isn’t saying whether he’ll seek another six years.
“Let’s call it an unknown,” he said.