Barrington area library Annual Report July 2020 - June 2021

Director's Message

The last year has given us all much to think about when we consider the word “open.” The world has been in a state of flux – from the borders of countries, to the doors of businesses, to access to services and institutions. Society has been in a state of up and down, open and closed, on and off.

Over the course of the last year, the Barrington Area Library experienced the same ups and downs as the rest of the world. And it brought the question of “openness” to the forefronts of our minds. What did it mean for us to say, "The Library is open?”

To us, being open meant creating connection wherever we possibly could. Yes, that meant opening doors, computers, study rooms, and access to aisles and aisles of books. It also meant reaching out to community members directly, thinking of ways to serve people who were most at risk, and finding ways to create joy in a time that could sometimes feel bleak. Our goal was to be ready to support our community’s varied wants and needs while keeping each other safe, and that required our definition of "open" to be as generous and innovative as possible.

We continue to learn about openness as an organization, and to embrace the needs of our community, as the world moves forward during this strange time. We’re grateful for the lessons learned, and the moments of connection we’ve shared with you all over the last year.

Sincerely, Executive Director Vicki Rakowski

Library Leadership News: Vicki Rakowski was promoted from the Library's Head of Operations to Executive Director in February 2021. Jason Pinshower, previously Head of Adult Services, was promoted to Head of Operations in June 2021.


After being closed for several months in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Library staff were delighted to welcome customers back into the building on July 27, 2020.

It was so good to be inside our terrific library today! @WriteTyper_ via Twitter

Another surge of the virus struck in November 2020, resulting in a second closure of the Library. By that time, new services like Parking Lot Pick-Up and Borrow By Mail were in place, alongside our nationally recognized digital collections, so customers had far more options for borrowing materials.

The Library reopened again on March 1, 2021, and has remained open, continually reintroducing services - like public computers, study and meeting rooms, on-site programming, and the MakerLab - when it has been determined that it is safe to do so.

We thank our friends at Barrington's historic Catlow Theater for spreading the word about our March reopening on their iconic marquee.


On September 15, 2020, the Barrington Area Library announced that it would no longer charge overdue fines.

Library staff spent more than a year researching the borrowing process, discovering that Barrington Area Library customers are conscientious stewards of library materials. On average, at any given time, only about .6% of the Library’s collection is overdue. Only about .2% of the collection is ever more than 21 days overdue. That strong sense of responsibility to the larger community will remain, even without overdue fines.

Also discovered in the research process: overdue fines disproportionately affect children, which goes against the Library’s mission goal of creating young readers. When barriers are removed and opportunities are increased, everyone benefits.

"Yay, this is wonderful news!" @terimichele via Instagram

Eliminating overdue fines will also improve efficiency and the Library’s bottom line. In years past, one out of every five Customer Service transactions related to fine payment. Fines collection costs the Library more than $22,000 a year in staff time and vendor costs. Those human and financial resources can now be used for innovative new services and initiatives that foster positive community relationships.

"That's awesome, thank you!" @cathleenscritters via Instagram


BALibrary customers enjoyed the convenience of Parking Lot Pick-Up, but concerns about winter weather inspired the Library to introduce another contactless option in October 2020: Borrow By Mail.

This free service works just like placing a hold in the Library's online catalog, but customers simply have to choose "Borrow By Mail," rather than a hold pick-up location. Items are mailed to BALibrary cardholders at their registered, in-district home addresses.

Customers have really taken to Borrow By Mail: in the last seven months of the '21 fiscal year, our Material Services team mailed out 2,643 parcels of Library materials! We are pleased to continue this convenient and innovative service in the current fiscal year. Learn more about Borrow By Mail.

Left: Material Services employee Deborah Peters prepares a book to be delivered by mail. Note that mailers made from recycled paper are used, to reduce impact on the environment.


Our Youth Services team has worked hard to find opportunities to give creative, playful experiences to children during the pandemic. One of their most successful ideas has been our Take-And-Make Kits.

Take-And-Make Kits are designed for specific age groups, like Toddler/Pre-K, Grades K - 2, and Grades 3 - 8. We have also offered kits for all ages, and kits for adults, centered around specific programs, like Cooks With Books and genealogy workshops.

In FY 20-21, Youth Services offered 38 different Take-And-Make Kits. A total of 2,184 kits were distributed to 1,050 unique individual participants.

What a clever project! My grandson loved it. Great project (like all the others)! Thank you very much!" Customer Jill, via e-mail


Did you know that the Library has offered free delivery of materials to homebound residents for many years? This service is available to Library District residents who are homebound temporarily (30-day minimum), permanently disabled, or elderly and without transportation.

During the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, homebound services became an even more important lifeline for some of our community residents.

In the past year, the total number of homebound deliveries increased by 90%, to a total of 535. The total number of items delivered increased by more than 100%, for a total of 1,305. These statistics do not include deliveries via our new Borrow By Mail service, which is offered to all BALibrary customers.

As an extra personal touch, Library staff also worked together this year to create a monthly homebound customer newsletter. The newsletter contains staff profiles, articles about interesting Library services and events, book and movie suggestions, local event listings, recipes, and games. Learn more about Homebound service.

A new monthly newsletter just for homebound customers is delivered along with Library items.

Left: Adult Services Librarian Corinne Groble prepares items for delivery to a homebound customer. Note that reusable mailing bags keep costs low and cut down on waste.

Browsing Bundles

As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued, many customers have missed the simple joys of browsing the Library stacks for books and movies. In February 2021, Library staff worked together to create a new service: Browsing Bundles.

Customers complete an online form requesting books or movies, including details on reading/viewing preferences, age group, and other factors. Adults may submit forms on behalf of the young readers in their households. Professional librarians use the information from the requests to search our for items that are a perfect match to the customer's taste. Items are bundled up in a tote bag for pick up. To date, more than 170 Browsing Bundles have been requested. Learn more.

Right: Youth Services Librarian Allison Parker prepares a Browsing Bundle for a young reader.

"The books selected for us are just perfect, and this has already made reading with my daughter more rewarding and enjoyable! Thank you! We love our local library (and librarians) and can't wait to use this service again." From a Browsing Bundle customer survey


The Barrington Area Volunteer Connection is the result of a partnership between the Barrington Area Library and the Barrington Area Development Council, with the support of more than a dozen ambassadors and the Barrington Area Community Foundation.

"...BAVC is a volunteer platform that connects area residents with local nonprofits...BAVC’s goal is to bring all 100+ Barrington nonprofits, churches, and service organizations into one searchable database where volunteer opportunities can be posted and responses collected and managed." From the BAVC website

BAVC went live in January 2021 and now has more than 80 local nonprofits and 700 community members registered.

Community Engagement Librarian Sam Adams-Lanham has served on the BAVC steering committee from the outset, with a focus on direction and training. She also wrote the grant that covers BAVC operating fees through 2024. The Library's Digital Services Manager, Michael Campagna, researched various platforms for the BAVC website. Adult Services Librarian Corinne Groble assisted with data uploads and website development.

"Volunteering enriches the lives of the people served and the lives of those who give their time and talent to a meaningful cause. From our first volunteer fair in 2017, people have reached out to BALibrary to find those opportunities. So partnering with BADC to create the Barrington Area Volunteer Connection is a natural fit, and by working together, we can do much more than we could on our own." Community Engagement Librarian Sam Adams-Lanham

LET's get growing

From our Seed Kit giveaway to the grand opening of the Teaching Garden, this was a fruitful year for garden-related programming at the Barrington Area Library. Seen in the two bottom photos: members of the North Cook County Master Gardeners and the Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club, our generous partners in the new Teaching Garden.


When the Seed Library made its debut in 2020, it sparked a joyful gardening boom during the difficult early months of the pandemic. When the Library reopened in March 2021, it seemed like a great time to get everyone growing again. Rather than opening up the Seed Library at that time, seeds were packaged into themed kits, and distributed at a walk-up table on the Library Plaza. 549 kits (each with five packets of seeds) were given away over two days. The Barrington Junior Women's Club dropped by one day with additional seed packets to donate - we are grateful for their generosity!

"Thanks for the new seed packets. Last year I grew the zinnias from you and they were great!" @channell.susan via Instagram

The Seed Library was reintroduced later in the year, and overall, 22,389 seed packets were distributed during FY 2020-2021.

"Thank you @balibrary and the amazing Junior Women's Club for this wonderful opportunity. I am so excited to get Veggies, Herbs and Flowers packets today!" Salini Nair via Twitter


After the success of the Seed Library, Adult Services Librarian Liz Kirchhoff began brainstorming with Library leadership about the possibility of a Teaching Garden. The concept? An outdoor classroom for hands-on, multi-generational learning, but also a spot for quiet reading and reflection. The Library’s Executive Director and Board of Trustees approved the plan, which included generous financial assistance from the Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club. Additional funding for the project was provided by the Diane Hunter Trust.

The North Cook County Master Gardeners provided countless hours of planning, many of the plants used for the garden, and the stakes to display informative signage. Master Gardeners are a vital link to getting research-based horticultural information to the public through University of Illinois Extension offices. They began planting at BALibrary in late May 2021, with additional volunteer help from Rotary. Comfortable and attractive bench seating was installed, along with fencing and signage.

The Teaching Garden made its official debut in the summer of 2021, with a festive (and very hot) celebration featuring take-home seeds and crafts, a book giveaway sponsored by the Barrington Breakfast Rotary, and gardening demonstrations by Master Gardeners. The Garden is adjacent to the Library's upper parking lot, and open to all. Six programs have been held in the Teaching Garden in 2021, and many visitors have enjoyed the space before/after our other outdoor programming, or simply while walking from The Garlands, JourneyCare, or Citizens Park.

Guests enjoy a tour of the Teaching Garden during the Grand Opening celebration.


Most Library programming remained online during FY 20-21, including our flagship TEDxBarringtonAreaLibrary event, which took place via Zoom on November 12, 2020.

2020 was the sixth time the Library has held this popular and inspiring forum for local thought leaders. Barrington High School Teacher Librarian Janet Anderson and JourneyCare Foundation trustee, former BStrong Together founding president, and long-time community volunteer Melissa Buckley were the featured speakers. Even in a virtual setting, they shared a message that continues to resonate: one year later, videos of their talks have been viewed more than 1,000 times.

Did you know that the TEDxBarringtonAreaLibrary speaker videos have been collectively viewed more than 60,000 times? Talk about Ideas Worth Spreading!


In keeping with the spirit of its "Libraries Are For Everyone" initiative, the Barrington Area Library released a statement and resource list in March of 2020, expressing solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Hate crimes against the AAPI in America have risen drastically over the past year, adding to the systemic injustice this population already experiences.

From the statement: "As a library, we believe one of the strongest tools in the fight against discrimination and intolerance is education. Empathy and understanding flourish when we open ourselves up to everyone’s stories, voices, and experiences. The Barrington Area Library is committed to furthering its own knowledge and ability to act as an open, equitable institution. Libraries are for everyone and all are welcome here." Read the full statement and resource list.


Circulation of physical items was inevitably lower this year, as the Library building was closed for four (non-consecutive) months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Circulation of digital content, however, continued to soar, with increases from 4-13% over last year.

The total number of items circulated was 611,632, a decrease of only 8% from the previous year. Digital downloading and innovative services like Parking Lot Pick-Up, Locker Delivery, Borrow By Mail, and online Library Card Registration made it easy for customers to get the Library materials they needed, while adhering to recommended safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

26,826 Barrington area residents are registered for BALibrary cards: that's 60% of our local population!

Check-Outs By Item Type:

  • Books: 256, 677 (-2.5% from last year)
  • DVDs: 95,773 (-36% from last year)
  • CDs: 11,981 (-31.5% from last year)
  • Print Magazines: 5,274 (-13% from last year)
  • Equipment and Kits: 771
  • E-Books: 116,902 (+13% from last year)
  • Audiobooks: 47,119 (+7.5% from last year)
  • Digital Magazines: 41,673 (-8% from last year)
  • Streaming Video: 9,676 (+12% from last year)
  • Downloadable/Streaming Music: 25,786 (+4% from last year)
  • TOTAL: 611,632

At The Reference Desk:

Library staff answered approximately 9,880 reference questions, and offered 71 one-on-one instruction sessions.

Interlibrary Loan:

Interlibrary Loan service was paused for several months this fiscal year, with so many academic and public libraries across the country and around the world being shut down due to the pandemic. When Interlibrary Loan resumed again, borrowing was limited to Illinois libraries for the first few months.

  • Items Borrowed: 673
  • Items Loaned: 577

Computers and Internet Usage:

  • Wi-Fi Sessions: 58,789
  • Public Internet Computer Sessions: 2,630

TOP TITLES FOR 2020-2021

Top Five Adult Fiction Books:

Top Juvenile Books:

  • The young readers of the Barrington area could not get enough of Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid series, and Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie series.
  • Other popular titles included I Lost My Tooth, from Willems' Unlimited Squirrels series, and evergreen favorite Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss.

Top DVDs:

Top Five E-Books:

Left: Technical Services employees Hallie Sinkovitz and Lisa Dockery process newly-arrived books for Library customers to enjoy.

Better Together: COmmunity partners

We thank our 54 community partners, who provided generous sponsorship of Summer Reading and the Teaching Garden, along with high quality programming, marketing outreach, guidance, volunteer recruitment, and support.

  • AARP
  • Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital
  • Alden Estates of Barrington
  • Rena Ballard
  • Barrington 220 School District, Schools, and Board of Trustees
  • Barrington 220 Educational Foundation
  • Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Barrington Area Community Foundation
  • Barrington Area Conservation Trust
  • Barrington Area Council of Governments
  • Barrington Area Council on Aging (Bacoa)
  • Barrington Area Development Council
  • Barrington Junior Women’s Club
  • Barrington Area Ministerial Association
  • Barrington Area Volunteer Connection
  • Barrington Bank & Trust Company
  • Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club
  • Barrington Park District
  • Barrington Township Food Pantry
  • Barrington Youth & Family Services
  • Barrington’s White House
  • BStrong Together
  • Be The Change Barrington
  • Catlow Theater
  • Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies, Northern Illinois University
  • Citizens For Conservation
  • Cook County Department of Environment & Sustainability'
  • Courageous Community
  • Cuba Township Food Pantry
  • Daughters of the American Revolution - Signal Hill Chapter
  • The Garlands of Barrington
  • Go Green Barrington
  • Honey Lake Bee Co.
  • Illinois Extension
  • JourneyCare
  • Kaleidoscope School of Fine Arts
  • Lake County Forest Preserve District
  • The Land Conservancy of McHenry County
  • League of Women Voters - McHenry County
  • League of Women Voters - Palatine Area
  • North Cook County Master Gardeners
  • Northwest Suburban Organizing For Action
  • One Life Kitchen
  • Quintessential Barrington
  • Right At Home
  • Samaritan Counseling Center
  • SOUL Harbour Ranch
  • South Barrington Park District
  • Village of Barrington
  • Village of Barrington Hills
  • Village of Deer Park
  • Walk-On Farm
  • Willow Recreation Center, Hoffman Estates
  • ZCenter