A Letter from the Library Board President: New Leadership, New Perspectives

Hello Lake Bluff neighbors,                                  

As the current President of the Lake Bluff Public Library Board of Trustees, I wanted to reach out and provide an update. After serving as Secretary and Vice-President, I was elected President almost a year ago. I can tell you, it has been a rewarding way to give back after a 30-year career with Abbott/AbbVie.   

For 2023, the immediate focus of the Library Board was to support the organization’s first leadership transition in over 10 years with the appointment of our new Library Director, Renee Grassi. I’m delighted to report that Renee has been a tremendous addition and brings contagious enthusiasm, broad experience and a deep commitment to our Library. It is due to her leadership that you may have noticed improvements we’ve made at the Library, such as new furniture in the Children’s and Adult sections,  replacement of a temperamental 12-year old copier/printer, and new building counters to analyze demand for in-building Library usage. In addition to new resources, you may have also been greeted by some new faces as four new individuals were hired to backfill existing roles.   

While there have been many improvements at the Library, we’ve also had some challenges. The Library building is almost 50 years old, and as a result, a number of building systems require updates to improve efficiency and meet newer safety and accessibility codes. In January, for example, the Library’s HVAC systems could not heat the building to a safe temperature, which led to the Library closing its doors for several days to replace its furnace. Important capital projects now need to be prioritized to prevent unexpected closures and to make the building and property more welcoming for all. In fact, later this year, the Library will be working with the Village of Lake Bluff to plan the repair and replacement of sidewalks around the Library property. To address increasing building needs and funding gaps, the Library has already applied for several grants with the hopes of subsidizing these costs.

Another notable change was the implementation of the Library Hours Pilot beginning in January. Based on staff shortages, low visit count, and financial constraints, the Library is currently piloting new operating hours to ensure that operations remain sustainable long term. We welcome your input on these adjusted hours and invite you to participate in our brief survey.

Major financial planning is needed to keep the Library safe and open to the public so that we can continue providing top-notch service. Because of this, the Board has now shifted our focus to evaluating the organization’s financial position. Even though the Library’s Reserves have increased over the last few years, the Annual Operating Budget and General Fund Reserves lag behind neighboring peer libraries. Also, the Library does not have a Capital Reserve Fund to cover expected and unexpected building projects. Upon Director Grassi’s suggestion, the Library Board held its first-ever Board Retreat, at which Trustees were introduced to the options our organization could take to improve its financial position. A summary of the Board Retreat will be shared with the public next week.

The Lake Bluff Public Library Board of Trustees is committed to being a good steward of all the Library resources—from the talented staff to the physical collection and the building. Over the next several months, we will be creating a plan to cast a new financial future for the Library. We look forward to working with you on this important task through various community engagement efforts, such as surveys and focus groups. 

I am grateful for the engaged Library Board and the vibrant community of Lake Bluff. I hope to see you at an upcoming Library event or perhaps browsing our Adult Fiction collection.  

The Library wants to hear from you. Attend a Board Meeting and participate in public comment, or email Library Director Renee directly

Bonnie Shaul
Library Board President     

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