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Warren-Newport Library celebrates 40 years

Joan Wilts Warren newport Township Library 1993. | Sun-Times file.

Joan Wilts at the Warren newport Township Library in 1993. | Sun-Times file.

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Updated: February 12, 2013 6:10AM

GURNEE — In 1973, library patrons could peruse 3,000 volumes at the Warren-Newport Public Library during the 45 hours per week that the library was open.

Forty years later, patrons can browse among more than 280,000 titles during the 70 hours a week the library is open.

WNPLD turned 40 on Thursday after opening its doors for the first time on Jan. 10, 1973, in a leased 1,800-square-foot building behind a bank.

“Maybe 40 is the new 30. It still feels like we’re young. We’re fresh and young. There are many staffers around who have been here since almost the beginning, but I really feel a sense of fresh energy in the library,” said Director Stephen Bero.

He said the 2010-11, $8.6 million renovation and 4,500-square-foot expansion project contributed to the library’s feeling of newness.

The remodel is more than triple the original building’s square footage. The original building had four staff members and volunteers. The library was leased at a rate of $4,200 per year. The lease was signed in November 1972.

The library district was formally established in 1973. The library had 5,000 to 6,000 volumes in the library and about 3,000 items in the bookmobile. Bookmobile service began in 1972, before there was a physical library building.

The original bookmobile is no longer in service, Bero said. The library is on its third bookmobile, which has been on the road since 2008.

“I think one of the big strengths of the library is the bookmobile. The bookmobile predates the library building. (It was) out in the community,” said Bero. “This is really one of the strengths of the library district, the outreach services.”

The library has reached its community. About 55 percent of the library’s district are cardholders. In 1973, about 40 percent of the library district’s residents had library cards.

The library district has a current population of 66,690 and had a population of 16,500 in 1973, according to data from WNPLD.

Longtime staffer Maureen Kalinowski, senior acquisitions, said the format of materials available to the public has changed dramatically in her 25 years with the library.

“We used to have books, records and cassettes. Now we have everything — e-books, DVDs. The formats have just exploded. That’s what the patrons want, so we order them,” said Kalinowski.

She said she thinks the materials and the programming is what brings people to the library.

There are some exciting changes in store for the library’s future, Bero said.

The library is going to start circulating e-reader devices within the next two months. Because the Hot Picks books selection has been so successful, the library will be starting its Hot Flicks best-selling DVDs soon. Hot Picks will be coming out within a matter of days, Bero said.

“Our staff is really why we’re so successful ... I like to call it the smile factor. We want to see our patrons smiling after they receive services from us and the way to do that is to keep the staff smiling,” said Bero said.

“We want to make sure they have a pleasant experience,” he added. “We do feel we do that. It’s been done throughout our history and we’ll bring that into the future.”

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