Remodeled and Ready

After its makeover, the St. Charles Public Library is new and improved and working to meet its mission goals


The renovated library consists of more windows to allow natural light in, along with plenty of desks and chairs for individuals to work. Photo courtesy of Serena Thakkar.

The mission of the St. Charles Public Library is “To support the growth and creativity of the individual and foster the spirit of community and local economy.” 

This past year the St. Charles Public Library has been in the spotlight as they transformed their space with a $18.6 million renovation and expansion. However, many aren’t aware of all the new features the library has to offer.

A “makerspace” has been created to encourage the collaboration of artistic and digital projects, as well as a “grand reading room” located on the main floor. In addition, the original Carnegie Building space, named after Andrew Carnegie who donated $12,500 in 1906, was transformed into an everyday space with study rooms along with a reading and research area. 

The transformed Carnegie Room remains a crucial part of the library’s rich history, as parts of its original brick from Andrew Carnegie’s donation in 1906 are still intact. Photo courtesy of Serena Thakkar.

Director of Administration, Edith Craig, explained how her favorite part of the library is the outside terrace garden. “It is so beautifully landscaped and calming that I wish I had an outdoor office!”

Along with a physical transformation, a significant amount of internal work has occurred at the library in order to foster an inclusive and equitable community.

The library’s 2019-2020 annual report explains the specific actions that are being taken to implement their mission statement, as they “review outdated policies and make them more inclusive, recommend resources and materials to help people learn more about systemic racism and oppression, provide resources and materials to help uncover implicit bias within our staff for personal and professional development, [and] help parents and caregivers talk to children…about race and racism so they can understand what is happening around them and stand up for and respect others.”

A few examples demonstrating the library’s commitment to an inclusive and equitable community include the Intergovernmental Agreement between the library and D303, as well as the Literacy Volunteers Fox Valley program.

The partnership between D303 and the library was launched on June 10, 2020, with 30 students receiving student library cards in the first 20 days. These student cards are available to students who attend a D303 school and live outside the library’s district.

Partnering with D303 to help all students get access to library cards as well as the Literacy Volunteers Fox Valley organization are just a few examples of the library’s commitment to an inclusive and equitable community.

The official teen-only room in the entire library. The Loft is complete with board games, video games, comics, books, and plenty of room to study. Photo courtesy of Serena Thakkar.

Literacy Volunteers Fox Valley

With the help of trained volunteers and organization staff, Literacy Volunteers Fox Valley, an organization based out of the library, is able to provide free one-on-one tutoring covering reading, writing, understanding, and speaking in English. Most of the participants in this program are low-income staff earners working in food service or factory jobs. 

In fiscal year 2019, there was a decrease in learner referrals from schools and businesses.

 “Conversation with them helped us understand that immigrants were afraid to bring their children to school activities or ask employers for language help because of anti-immigration sentiment,” the library’s 2019-2020 report explains. “Both documented and undocumented individuals felt safer in the shadows.”

This led to a campaign with the mission of increasing awareness of the program as well as gaining trust from potential participants.

 The ability to overcome this obstacle, as well as the difficulties that a global pandemic posed, led to learners during fiscal year 2020 landing new jobs and promotions, securing U.S citizenship, and becoming homeowners. The success of the program can also be observed among participants and their families, as they can read to their children, better assist them with schoolwork, and help them navigate the challenges of remote learning.

Overall, the pandemic did pose a significant challenge on the renovation project and ability to carry out everyday services, as “COVID-19 affected our hours, capacity limits, and the amount of services,” explained Craig.

 “Moving into the Haines building should have only taken four weeks, but the week we closed down the library to make the move, COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic and we were forced to stop everything.” 

Jane Shelton, a reference librarian, working on the second floor of the library, right outside The Loft. Photo courtesy of Serena Thakkar.

This wasn’t the end of the obstacles, as once staff were able to return to Haines, along with unpacking, they had to find a new way to serve the community in a safe manner.

Despite the obstacles,  Craig highlighted how pleased she was with the renovation process, stating “I was very proud of our community, board, and project team. I was also amazed that our project was on schedule and on budget during a time of global crisis.” 

East Senior Jiya Patel frequently visits the library to study and read after school.

St. Charles Public Library Hours

Monday-Thursday: 9:00am-9:00pm

Friday: 9:00am-8:00pm

Saturday: 9:00am-5:00pm

Sunday: 12:00pm-5:00pm

Click here to visit the library’s website