Year in Review 2023 Wilmette Public Library

At the library, 2023 was a year of development and growth, exploration and learning, and coming together as a community. Together, we explored literature, enjoyed art and music, became makers of all ages, and planned for a bright future.

Join us as we look back on the many highlights of the year.

Our Year in Numbers

Following several years of pandemic-related service disruptions, we are excited to report that the library is statistically back to operating at 2019 levels across our service areas. Circulation has increased by 8% since 2022, while library visits have increased by 37% in the same time period. More than 80% of Wilmette households have at least one library card, and more than two thirds of all registered library cards have been actively used in the last six months of 2023.

A New Path to Guide Our Way

The library finalized and approved a new strategic plan in June 2023, following a series of surveys and meetings to collect community input. The new plan established our goals, priorities, and initiatives for the next several years. As part of our planning process, we also refreshed our mission, vision, and values statements, which will help to guide our everyday work and ensure we are aligned with our dynamic path forward.

Goal Areas

  • Welcoming Environment
  • Connected Community
  • Sustainable Future

Fiscal Year 2023-24 Initiatives:

  • Evaluate and maintain personnel and compensation policies to equitably recruit, retain, and recognize talented staff
  • Digitize, preserve, and enhance access to rare and unique local history resources
  • Reallocate spaces for patron computer services to accommodate implementation of emerging technologies in a flexible, creative space
  • Develop and implement a unified branding and style manual to guide staff in creating library communications that are consistent, creative, and effective
  • Develop and implement a framework for collecting feedback about services and programs
  • Optimize accessibility to our collections and services through the website and app
  • Continuously evaluate technological assets to optimize efficient system solutions, including building automation, networked communication, and computing environments
  • Complete responsive space needs assessment to inform and establish priorities for service design and capital planning

We’re excited to take on the new initiatives attached to these goal areas each year, as well as integrate them into our planning, programming, and operations.

Wilmette Public Library welcomes everyone with collections, resources, and experiences that enrich the lives of individuals and our community.
The 2023 staff is always ready to welcome the community to the library.

Programs for All Ages

Over the course of the year, we hosted more than 1,000 programs for visitors of all ages. Our youngest patrons enjoyed storytimes and dance parties, as well as opportunities to get messy and tackle hands-on sensory activities.

Grade school children enjoyed book discussions and STEM projects, while high schoolers flocked to the library for study sessions and take-home crafts. Adults danced and crafted too, discussed books, enjoyed concerts and lectures, and learned about a wide range of subjects from Google Sheets to Becoming a Petfluencer.

More than 8,400 children and their caregivers attended storytimes

Patrons of all ages, from children through adults, participated in making, getting creative with tools including the library's sewing machine, metal stamping tools, 3D printing, and much more.

Our best attended adult program was the One Book, Everyone Reads Author Talk with Kevin Wilson, and our most attended children's program was the Frozen Singalong.

Technology Updates

New Spaces for Public Computers

This fall, we relocated our first floor public computers from the Technology Center to the Reference area. Users can access all the same services that were available in the Technology Center, including internet and word processing, printing, faxing, and scanning, in this convenient new space. Dedicated staff are on hand to answer tech questions at the renamed Reference and Technology service desk, alongside our Adult Services librarians. Staff are working on an exciting new creative space in the former Technology Center space, opening in early 2024. Learn more about this new space on our website.

Installing a Building Automation System

In late 2023, a newly installed building automation system came online, promoting our commitment to efficiency and sustainability, and allowing us to better manage our lighting, heating, cooling, and other systems in a controlled and environmentally-friendly way.

Community Connections

Let's Learn Together

Let’s Learn Together, a new learning series for families and educators, launched in January 2023. The theme for the first series was racial literacy, helping families discuss race in an open and non-judgmental way. Hosted by Youth Services and Adult Services staff, this all-ages series provided workshops and book talks, and offered take-home kits for families to continue learning independently. We look forward to continuing to develop this series and introducing new topics each year.

Stories of Exile Discussion Series

This fall, we were thrilled to host Stories of Exile, a reading and discussion series that was funded by a grant from the Yiddish Book Center. Along with 27 other libraries around the country, we explored Yiddish literature as a lens to reflect on experiences of exile, displacement, and migration across cultures and throughout history. Participants read and discussed books and stories in translation from Yiddish, as well as Louise Erdrich's The Painted Drum.

Notary Services

We were pleased to introduce notary services this summer, available by appointment to Wilmette library cardholders. This new service offers a convenient, much-needed resource for the community.

Outreach Around Town

We continued to develop our partner connections beyond the library, participating in events with District 39 and the Wilmette Park District, and hosting events at parks and at the beach. Our Youth Services librarians completed more than 250 school and event outreach visits in 2023, and our newly appointed Senior Services librarian has been working directly with residents at Mather and Mallinckrodt.

The Friends of the Wilmette Public Library remain a vital library partner. In 2023, they sponsored Winter and Summer Reading Clubs; One Book, Everyone Reads; and the Books for Babies initiative. Using funds raised by donations and sales at Books Down Under, they are a vital partner in reading initiatives at the library. We thank our dedicated volunteers for their ongoing support!

Accessibility at the Forefront

In April, we launched our new Social Stories, tools developed by our librarians to assist children and teens with autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, anxiety, or other cognitive or physical disabilities, and prepare them for a library visit. We also began offering Meet Your Library tours, which provide a friendly, curated entry point to visiting the library, as a complement to our roster of sensory-friendly programs.

Utilizing our 3D printers, we introduced an assistive devices kit in the Library of Things. The kit features 3D printed items that make everyday tasks such as turning a key or carrying bags easier. In addition to borrowing the kit to try items, the devices are all available for purchase.

Sharing our Love of Reading

A shared love of reading is at the core of the library. This year, we read together at book groups, reading clubs, Winter and Summer Reading, One Book Everyone Reads, and a variety of author visits.

800 adults, teens, and children participated in Summer Reading Club, which had the theme of "Find Your Voice." Another 308 finished our Winter Reading Club, "Light Up Your Life with Books!" Throughout both of our clubs, participants reported on their reading, took part in activities and events, and all finishers collected a free book as a prize – generously sponsored by the Friends of the Wilmette Public Library!

Our 2023 One Book, Everyone Reads selection was Kevin Wilson’s coming-of-age novel Now is Not the Time to Panic. We celebrated One Book with book discussions, a community art show, lectures about guerilla art, hands-on activities, culminating with a virtual author event with Kevin Wilson. Now is Not the Time to Panic was our most-circulated adult fiction title of the year, with hundreds of community members reading this powerful story of art, friendship, memory, and growing up.

We were thrilled to host children’s author Grace Lin this fall, in partnership with D39 schools. 250 audience members joined us at Wilmette Junior High to hear Grace speak about her work and take part in a communal drawing activity.

We continued our partnership with the Family Action Network and participation in Illinois Libraries Presents, bringing such popular authors as David Leonhardt, Sam Irby, Shannon Watts, Becky Kennedy, Jesmyn Ward, Danny Trejo, and Will Shortz to the Wilmette community.

Welcoming New Faces

We were thrilled to welcome eight new faces to the library staff this year. We filled two key management roles, welcoming Cathleen Blair as our Adult Services manager, and Matthew Hoffman as our Circulation manager. These additions to our management team have added vibrant new ideas and valuable perspectives to the running of the library. Next time you visit, make sure to say hi to our newer staff members!

We were also excited to welcome new trustees to the board this past spring. The April 4 Consolidated General Election resulted in the election of new trustees Renee Cox, Carolyn Sennett, and Maria Di Lorenzo, as well as the reelection trustee Joan Fishman, new board president.

The 2023-2025 Library Board of Trustees

A Look at Our Finances

In June, the board approved the library’s annual budget of $6,398,247, including a 4% cost of living increase for all eligible staff effective July 1, 2023. To address its planned (but unsustainable) deficit spending of over $530,000 from the General Fund balance for fiscal year 2023-2024, the library conducted a long range financial study in the fall, projecting trends for general operations as well as planned capital reserve projects.

The studies showed that the library’s fund balance policy of retaining 50% to 100% of its annual operating expenses in reserve is a key target that could erode in a matter of 5-7 years if the board did not take appropriate action to ensure continuity of service through intentional action with the levy. Overall, the challenges presented by the recent inflationary market, the changing and competitive labor market, and the risk of compromising the library’s valued quality of service led the board to unanimously support a 4.9% increase the annual property tax levy in November 2023.