Changing of the guard for Joliet Public Library
By Bob Okon email@example.com January 7, 2013 9:58PM
Diane Harmon, the outgoing director of the Joliet Public Library, talks in her office at the facility in Joliet, IL on Monday January 7, 2013. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
What: Farewell for retiring Joliet Public Library Director Dianne Harmon
When: 1-4:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Joliet Public Library Black Road Branch, 3595 Black Road
Who: The public is invited.
Updated: February 9, 2013 6:21AM
JOLIET — How many people can say this about their job after 24 years?
“I’ve loved every day that I’ve come to work here.”
On her last day of work Monday, Joliet Public Library Director Dianne Harmon did add one possible exception: “Maybe not so much the day of the fire.”
The downtown library building was firebombed in 1989, something that could spoil anyone’s day. But the library was repaired.
Harmon says it like she really means it when she talks about the joys of working at the Joliet Public Library.
One regret is that she won’t be around for the many changes likely to occur as electronic media continues to supplant print and transforms the way libraries operate. That will be left to her successor — Kevin Medows.
It looks like a smooth transition. Like Harmon, who was deputy director before taking the top job in July 2011, Medows has been deputy director. He started working in Joliet in May, coming from the Warren-Newport Public Library District in Lake County, where he was head of technical services. He has previous experience at academic music libraries, including the University of Illinois, where he received his master’s degree in library sciences.
Medows becomes the third head of the Joliet library since longtime Director Jim Johnston left in 2009. Johnston’s successor, John Spears, stayed less than two years. Harmon took the job at a time that she already was contemplating retirement.
Even though she had not planned to stay long, Harmon said, “A part of me doesn’t want to leave. This is a very exciting time for public libraries. We’re going to be redefining what we provide for patrons.”
Medows was hired as deputy director for his technological skills. And Medows sees it as a big part of his job to make the electronic library easier for patrons to use.
“Going forward we want to make it so our website is a portal to discovery with ease,” Medows said.
It should become easier for patrons to locate hard-to-find books or articles themselves on library website, he said. They can always ask a librarian for help. But, Medows said, more people want to do things themselves anyway, and the library should facilitate that.
Both Medows and Harmon say books are here to stay — at least for the foreseeable future. But Medows also foresees the number of books in libraries decreasing over time.
“We have to redefine how we use our space,” he said. At some point, he said, “The physical collection of the library is going to go down. We know it’s going to go down. That can be a good thing. There are other things we can do with our space.”
Some things are being done already.
Under Harmon, the library started a digital media studio, making equipment available for individuals to create their own videos or businesses to develop marketing material.
It’s the sort of thing that patrons are likely to find more of in the libraries of the future, Medows said.
“Libraries are going to be more about providing space where people can be creative,” he said.
The library staff has never been afraid to venture into new areas, Harmon said. The Black Road branch was the first location of a regional sustainability festival devoted to living green and held each spring. The branch also once hosted Civil War reenactments. And, the library runs an annual Star Wars Day that fills downtown Joliet each year.
That spirit of innovation is likely to continue, Harmon said. What she’ll miss most is working with the resourceful staff at the library.
“The leaders here have ideas, and they’re comfortable discussing those ideas,” Harmon said. “They have big goals.”