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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

City of Destiny, city of big dreams

It seems to me there are four kinds of people. There are those who work hard to make their dreams a reality and there are those who shrug off their dreams and watch them slip away. There are also those who love to lend a hand, a voice, a lift to help someone else's dreams come true. And finally, ugh, there are those who seem to delight in tearing down the dreams of others.

I feel pretty strongly that librarians, library people, fall into the two more positive categories. Library people (I say it that way because not everybody in a library is a "librarian," but nevertheless every "library person" plays a crucial role) are all about helping others reach out and grab onto dreams. Library people can help you apply to a college, get a video to help you exercise or sing or paint, find books for you on everything from world travel to cooking to computer programs. Library people can show you the resources to help you start a business, become a better parent, make a tidy sum on eBay and even how to do the conga.

But library people are also dreamers - they must be in order to ensure that libraries don't become ancient and hollow temples of information, but rather remain relevant, fresh and vital. More than 100 years ago, some Des Plaines residents set to dreaming and those dreams included a library. Andrew Carnegie dreamed about libraries sprouting up in communities all over the world, from England to Australia and, yes, even in Des Plaines. With a $5,000 grant, Carnegie helped make the first library in Des Plaines a reality. The dreaming didn't end there, thank goodness. Every time Des Plaines grew, the library grew right along with it. I've been learning about the history of the Des Plaines Public Library in my first four months on the job, which just happen to coincide with the library's Centennial anniversary. When I see the old black and white photograph of the first librarian, Sarah Weeks, I can't help but wonder: could she ever have dreamed of the amazing library we have now? Could she have imagined the World Wide Web or downloadable audiobooks or even a computer? If someone had told her the library needed a "blog," what on earth would she have pictured? Did she have days when she was overwhelmed keeping track of the library's 725 books and could she have conceived of a four-story library building holding more than 250,000 books? Yet Mrs. Weeks surely had dreams of her own, along with countless other people whose names and faces may be forgotten to time, but whose dedication and perseverance served as stepping stones to the library's present and future.

Another fun aspect of being the new kid in the library during its Centennial year has been participating in many of the special Centennial events. The Centennial planning committee has had the courage to dream big and consequently has been rewarded with incredibly memorable occasions. Over and over again, I hear people saying, "I never would have expected this," or, "This turned out better than I could have ever imagined" -- all part of the power of dreaming, and dreaming big. (Bigly? Is there an adverb for "big?" :) )

And now, the biggest dream for our Centennial Celebration is just around the corner -- our amazing Centennial Carnival. We hope you've cleared your calendar and plan on joining us this Sunday, October 7 from 1-4 p.m. in Library Plaza. Click here to see a schedule of entertainment for the day. We've got everything from clowns and games for the kids, a vintage car show and live music for the grown-ups and a bilingual storyteller the whole family will enjoy. Lemonade, root beer, ice cream, popcorn and cotton candy are on the menu along with lots of souvenir giveaways and prizes - and we're picking up the tab. In fact, we're footing the bill for the whole day, so bring the family, bring your neighbors, your church friends, classmates and coworkers. We're not throwing the Carnival to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done -- we're throwing a party to celebrate the dreamers, from Andrew Carnegie and Sarah Weeks to Paul Jung, John Burke, our director Sandra Norlin and everyone who helped the library grow and stretch to meet the needs of the Des Plaines community, and we're throwing it to thank you, the people who supported the dreaming, through your support, donations, tax dollars and encouragement.

Come out and celebrate with us, Des Plaines. Here's to another 100 years of big dreams in the City of Destiny.


  1. Wednesday's DP Journal mentioned that its back issues are digitally available through the library now. I can't find this anywhere. What's the story?

  2. Hi Brian,

    I read that article in Wednesday's Journal and I'm not sure if an editing or reporting error is what occurred -- we do have the Journal back to 1935, but only on microfilm. Since the paragraph above this statement talks about our online catalog and databases, it makes sense that this sentence also refers to "online" sources. Alas, it does not. We do have: the last 12 years of the DP times and the Daily Herald, more than 20 years of the Sun-Times, and many, many decades worth of the Chicago Tribune, all available online, and even from home if you have a DPPL card. Sorry for the confusion - I suspect that sentence just got dropped into the wrong place in the article.


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