February 21, 2003
Reaction Paper #1
The visit to the Woodridge Public Library, which took place February 15, was an adventure, if nothing else. Making the drive to 3 Plaza Drive was uneventful – except for almost getting hopelessly lost. Because I hadn't been to Woodridge before and am not always great with directions, Mom came along for the drive. We eventually decided to break down and dial 964-7899, and luckily, that happened to be the library’s phone number. We got directions to a street that had, up to that point, not been in existence. I wish the library’s site, www.woodridgelibrary.org, had the "Directions to Library" Web page available, but like the roads to the library, it was Under Construction. The library wastes no time in trying to be unique, starting with parking located solely behind the library. That is easy enough to find. In terms of public transportation, I think there may have been a bus stop somewhere near the building. There was a train station a few blocks away, if I remember correctly, which really means that there probably wasn't any train station at all. (I have a notoriously bad memory.)
The library is a public one, so the majority of the users are, to nobody’s surprise, Woodridge residents who are eligible for cards. In addition to the books, there is a children’s section and puppet theater. The library also has plenty of Internet-access computer stations and online databases. There are various bilingual clubs and children’s story-time events. The library is open to the public anytime during operating hours – 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The library was designed to serve as many as 39,000 people. Interestingly enough, if the town’s Web site is up-to-date, there are only around 30,000 people living in the town, so the library likely serves some 20,000-plus patrons. Other services, other than the ones already discussed, include accommodations for patrons with special needs. These services include audio books, large type books, TTY and homebound delivery.
I couldn’t say for sure what the library’s budget is – I arrived too late to find out – but, considering the building, I would guess around $7-10 million annually. Much of this probably goes toward the library collection, which comprises well over 175,000 books, thousands of magazines and other non-book materials, and hundreds of thousands of articles available through the online databases. The building is three stories high and takes up 51,000 square feet. Having gotten lost en route to the library, I arrived quite late and missed a number of bits of information, including the number of people in the library staff, I'd estimate between 30 and 40 people.
Further relating to the staff, they actually have rather neat work areas. No “Bless This Mess” signs are to be found here; the desks and work rooms had a lot of stuff, but everything seemed to have a place. The staff members are professional but personable. The library is governed by the Board of Trustees, which is made up of seven citizens of the town. Mary Sue Brown, who gets the distinction of having lovely plaques identifying her as the Library Administrator, likely reports (indirectly) to the ALA – at least when she is not suffering back problems from having to carry heavy paychecks out the door. (As a librarian, she knows that this is a sarcastic remark.)
Of course, the burning question on everyone’s mind is: "How’s the seating?" The answer, which will prove vital to all who are on the verge of becoming neurotic, is an estimate of 50 to 80 chairs. There are “reclining sofa” chairs, “expensive padded lecture-room” chairs and the famous “upper-back problem” wooden chairs all over the place. The library is considering some interbreeding of these different species. Most of the pain-inducing seats be found in front of the library workstation computers, which run on new Windows systems. There are some Internet workstations, Internet express stations and reference database stations. For the safety of the users, the computers have been tamed, declawed and generally made foolproof to all but the most competent fools. Prominent among the online databases is SWAN, whose only relation to waterfowl is the fact that some computer users have IQs around the same range.
All of the areas of the library were simple to find. The payphones are near the restrooms. Apparently, if nature’s going to call, it’s going to call collect. The circulation and reserve desks are near the entrance. Also simple to find are the reference/information desk, library catalog and periodicals, none of which I have anything amusing to say about. There are some copiers near the workstations; for a small fee, you can pay to watch juvenile pranksters stick their heads in and make copies. The water fountains are always nice, though unexciting – unless you’re psychotic, in which case you are free to stare and ponder them with a glazed expression. Elevators and stairs make for easy access to all areas of the library.
One of the most impressive things about the library is simply the way it is designed. It is roomy, modern-looking and well-lit. It is a well-organized place, and the glass exterior of the library makes it an architecturally intriguing piece of work. I’m not sure what I was most concerned with about the library, other than the unplanned road trip I took in the meager attempt to locate the darn building. Should the library ever sprout wheels and wind up closer to Wheaton, I would use the library in the future, but unless that happens, I’ll stay local. Best not to get a Hertz navigating program for the car when I’m driving, lest the navigational computer have a nervous breakdown due to my lack of any sense of direction. All considered, I think that all the positives and negatives I’ve gone over epitomize what would be good (and not so good) about working at the Woodridge Public Library. Everyone else may have arrived on time, but at least I took the scenic route. If anyone wants to see pictures of my unplanned side trip to the Bermuda Triangle, just ask.