Library is centerpiece of Singleton School
By Tony Graf email@example.com June 9, 2012 9:12PM
Librarian Dawn Crowder, a recipient of a Joliet Grade School Foundation Grant, is seen at Singleton Elementary School Wednesday, May 30, 2012, at 1451 Copperfield Ave. in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 11, 2012 10:26AM
JOLIET — Dawn Crowder once operated a library in the gymnasium stage area at Parks School. That tiny enclave, in a building well more than a century old, was never meant to be a library. It had served as a backstage area to prepare for school plays and performances.
Before that, Crowder worked in a library in a small room at a crowded A.O. Marshall School in Joliet.
And before that, when her daughters attended Marshall, the school library was simply a series of shelves in the hallways.
So imagine Crowder’s reaction this past school year, when she moved from Parks to her new workplace: The library at the new Isaac Singleton Elementary School is a spacious, open, high-ceiling room with atrium lighting.
The library is 1,914 square feet, and it’s arguably the architectural centerpiece of the Joliet Grade School District’s newest building.
“Coming here, it was like, ‘Wow,’ ” Crowder said.
“It was overwhelming,” she said, describing the feeling as she walked from the building’s main area to the stairway overlooking the 2.5- to 3-story library.
“I came down the stairs, and I said: ‘I have an office! I have an office!’ ” Crowder said.
On top of that, Crowder is now the recipient of an $800 grant, which will add U.S. presidential biographies to the Singleton library.
The grant is one of 18 awarded this spring by the Joliet Grade Schools Foundation for Educational Excellence. With the grants, the foundation gave out more than $13,000 to enhance opportunities for students.
Anyone who loves Joliet schools should schedule a visit to this new library. However, Crowder’s long journey to this place was not easy.
Crowder has worked in the district for 11 years. She started out on lunchroom and playground duty at A.O. Marshall. At that time, two of her daughters, Stephanie and Abigale, attended there. After a few years, Crowder moved to accelerated-reader and library duty.
“By that time, we had a little room,” she said.
The century-old Parks School reopened in 2007, to alleviate crowded conditions at Marshall.
“I asked if I could go over there and have my own little room,” Crowder said of Parks. “I did not realize how little the room was going to be. It was crazy shelving. There were old wooden shelves, from the teachers not wanting them. Stacking them up. Using crates with the books. Books all over the place. Kids all over the place.”
There once was a curtain in the backstage area, but it was taken down, and a separator wall was installed.
Principal Linda Scott brought in some shelving units, and the small backstage library looked nice, Crowder said. However, the real step forward came with this last school year.
Goodbye and hello
Parks School, at age 128, closed in fall 2011. Principal Scott, Librarian Crowder and 491 students moved to the newly opened Isaac Singleton School at 1451 Copperfield Ave. Every room at the new school has either outdoor lighting or a view overlooking this daylight-filled library.
“It’s totally awesome. Everybody was telling me, ‘You’re not going to believe it.’ It’s beyond words,” Crowder told The Herald-News when the school opened last fall.
The incoming presidents will have plenty of neighbors in the library. The room is stocked with books. And after the first full academic year at Singleton School, Crowder is still organizing an influx of donated material.
“I’m putting books in the computer right now. I’ve got over 16,000 books in here. And a lot of it is donations from the different teachers, whoever wants to bring books in,” she said.