Barrington area library Bridging The Distance: Annual Report FY 2019-2020


Whether six feet apart, across town, or across the country, distance has been on everyone’s mind this year. Carefully measured, deeply felt distances now seem to govern our lives – including how we interact, share, and spend time with our loved ones and friends.

Bridging distances between people, cultures, and ideas lives at the core of what we do at the Barrington Area Library. Librarians and library staff are intensely interested in helping folks make connections: to the Barrington area’s thriving nonprofit community; to information and voices that help us make sense of complicated times; to our neighbors during exhilarating experiences like Creator Fair or the Yule Ball; and to thousands of library resources that inform and inspire.

We’ve felt the same distance that many of you are experiencing this year, and we've used that feeling to explore new ways of doing what we do best: making space for our community to come together. In this Annual Report, we’re proud to share with you the ways that you’ve found connection here, even during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks for reading – and keep in touch.

Jesse Henning, Executive Director

"Great staff, very helpful. The building was recently updated inside, and the focus on technology is great." Keegan Teal, Google review

4th of July parade

Library staff, trustees, and family members - one of our largest groups ever - had a blast connecting with the community during the 2019 Barrington 4th of July Parade. Our message was simple: the freedom to read is a Constitutional right that every American should celebrate.

Creator Fair, August 3, 2019: 14 crafts and maker projects that 384 customers of all ages enjoyed throughout the day. Activities included hands-on demonstrations by the Chicago Wood Turners, bubble painting, and tote bag design using a heat press. Another highlight was the Ice Cream Social, offering an old-fashioned community gathering with refreshments like lemonade, popcorn, and popsicles. Hosted and organized by Library staff, the event was also a success due to the 10 hard-working volunteers that helped with the crafts - thank you!

Cooks With Books is a very popular monthly program, bringing connoisseurs of cuisine to the Library and to area restaurants for cookbook discussions, demonstrations, and tastings.

Local Flavors was an opportunity to welcome a larger audience to a food-focused experience. On Saturday, November 9, 2019. 152 attendees enjoyed samples and menus from local eateries such as Christi’s Sweet Café, Pine Food Co., Cook Street Coffee, and Honey Lake Bee Co. In addition to tasty treats, Primo Pizza, Frantonio’s Italian Café, One Life Kitchen, and Culinary Arts Director Donna Wagner from the College of DuPage gave cooking demonstrations. Smart Farms and Mindful Waste were on hand to share information on growing and composting. Local baker and author Kathi Frelk hosted a cookie decorating table for a more hands-on experience that delighted guests of all ages. We also held a raffle for gift cards from eateries featured at the event.

The Library’s first ever Harry Potter Yule Ball was a magical and memorable success, welcoming in the new year - and more than 350 guests of all ages - on January 3, 2020. Live classical music from the Moeller Music duo, and authentic Hogwarts decorations, created a festive ambiance that accompanied the Harry Potter-themed activities throughout the library. Activities included a Magical Creature Scavenger Hunt, crafts and games, spinning the Patronus Wheel, and creative photo opportunities. The evening ended with a reveal of the answers to the Harry Potter Trivia contest, and winners received laser-cut pint glasses created in our MakerLab. Participants also indulged in the Hot Chocolate Bar and Honeyduke’s Candy Table.

"Adults, teenagers, children, and even babies arrived decked out in fan gear and head-to-toe costumes, and everyone enjoyed the live music, themed refreshments, photo ops, magical crafts, mini Quidditch, and Harry Potter trivia: it was truly a joyful celebration of the books and their enduring magic for so many readers." Allison Parker, Youth Services Librarian


Launched in February 2020, the Seed Library distributed 6,741 seed packets to customers. We offered more than 60 unique types of seeds, focusing on native flowers and grasses to attract pollinators, but also veggies and herbs for customers to plant in their kitchen gardens.

We also brought expertise to local gardeners with an outstanding series of online programs offered in partnership with the Land Conservancy of McHenry County. These five programs attracted a total of almost 1,000 attendees.

We’re already preparing for the coming year with new seed varieties and expanded programming to teach area gardeners, both novice and expert, additional skills and techniques. We can't wait to welcome you to our new Teaching Garden, created in partnership with the Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club.

"Little pea shoots are coming up! Thanks for the #seedlibrary, BALibrary!" Katie Schmitt, Twitter post


On March 13, 2020, the Barrington Area Library building temporarily closed, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. As the staff prepared to offer remote library services, they also discussed ways to help the community stay connected and hopeful during the challenging days ahead. Together We Read, an all-ages digital reading club, was launched just a few days into the temporary closure.

More than 200 customers of all ages participated in Together We Read. In addition to tracking their own reading and other fun activities, participants could compete in weekly challenges, sponsored by local nonprofits. As each challenge was met, the selected nonprofit would make a $200 donation to our local food pantries at Barrington Township and Cuba Township. Through these efforts, $1,400 was raised for the pantries. We are grateful to the enthusiastic readers of the Barrington area, and our seven nonprofit sponsors:

  • BStrong Together
  • Go Green Barrington
  • Barrington Breakfast Rotary
  • Daughters of the American Revolution – Signal Hill Chapter
  • Barrington Area Ministerial Association
  • Barrington 220 Educational Foundation
  • Advocate Good Shepherd Community Relations


Medical professionals and many others providing essential services during the pandemic have to wear face masks for their entire shift. Tension from the elastic can make their ears sore. In April, Digital Services Specialist Ken Fritz responded to a request from a local physician and 3D-printed these ear guards, which reduce the pressure from elastic straps and ease the pain. Ken produced 150 ear guards, and then coordinated the delivery of the ear guards to Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital.

The guards worked so well that Ken printed an additional 100 sets for BALibrary staff to wear when they returned to on-site work.

MakerLab By The Numbers

  • 561 3-D Print jobs, 244 since the March 2020 closing.
  • 324 Laser-Etched projects, 215 since the March 2020 closing.

"I just completed this tutorial. I am 60+ years old and am over the moon happy that with Ken's precise instructions I was able to complete this project. THANK YOU Ken. THANK YOU BAL for providing this at home project during a very difficult time. Please keep these 'at home' instructional videos coming...." Customer comment on a MakerLab video tutorial


High quality programming has long been a hallmark of the Barrington Area Library. As the COVID pandemic grew, Library staff quickly pivoted to online program offerings, via Zoom, YouTube, and other virtual platforms, working hard behind the scenes to offer customers enriching experiences that met our standard of excellence.

In FY 19-20, the Library offered 707 synchronous (at a specific time/date) programs, including: 432 programs for children and teens, 18 programs for young adults, and 257 programs for adults. We also offered a wide variety of passive (attendees chose when to participate) programs which reached almost 4,000 additional participants. In total, 31,494 customers engaged in BALibrary programs over the past year.

In addition to large-scale programs listed above, other in-person highlights included the Second Fridays concert series, the fifth annual TEDxBarringtonAreaLibrary, Finals Cafe, One Earth Film Fest, Give & Take 60010, and Take History to Heart with Holocaust Survivor Steen Metz.

Popular virtual programs included Second Fridays With Petra Van Nuis and Andy Brown (53 attendees), The Notorious RBG: The Life & Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (136 attendees) with the Illinois Holocaust Museum, and After The Rally: What Next? (77 attendees), a conversation with local thought-leaders about race and inclusion.

Our Digital Services team focuses on computer- and technology-related programming. This year they offered 42 programs, reaching 519 attendees. Their most popular program was Cutting The Cable Cord, with 52 participants.

"Enjoyed *Star's talk about furthering our connections to others outside our immediate community. Learned so much from her and the other speakers. Thank you BAL! #tedxbarringtonarealibrary" Tamara Tabel, Instagram comment
Libraries Are For Everyone was our overarching theme for reading and viewing lists that celebrated and supported equity, diversion, and inclusion.

making a difference: building an engaged and inclusive community

From the Library's June 5, 2020, Statement On Building An Engaged and Inclusive Community: "As a First Amendment institution, the Barrington Area Library stands with those who choose to exercise their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech. Freedom of speech includes the right to read, view, listen to, create, and access information free from censorship and this right underpins our work as library professionals. The First Amendment also guarantees the right to assemble peaceably and petition the government for a redress of grievances. It is a necessary civic duty to exercise these rights and the Barrington Area Library is here to support all residents in that endeavor." Read the full statement.

As an institution dedicated to serving all members of our community, the Barrington Area Library stands with those working to end racism, inequality, and other barriers that limit opportunity and potential within our community. In the past year, we have strengthened our commitment to ensuring safe, welcoming space for everyone at the Library, and to amplifying a truly diverse range of voices and stories. In 2020, we featured reading/viewing lists for Pride Month, Black Lives Matter, and Hispanic Heritage Month, along with print book displays on these and similar themes. In June of 2020, we released our formal statement on "Building An Engaged and Inclusive Community." We've been proud to sponsor thoughtful presentations and book discussions to encourage conversation around issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion.


The Barrington Area Library has long been noted for its outstanding collections of e-books, e-audiobooks, streaming video, and other forms of digital content. Our annual circulation of digital content places us within the top 1% of public libraries in the US, and makes up more than 1/3 of our total circulation. When the Library building temporarily closed its physical doors to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital library became even more important to our community of readers and learners.

In FY 19-20, BALibrary cardholders checked out 226,155 digital items.

"My ability to download books has kept me sane. Thank you." Trish Ehlers, Facebook comment

From another customer: "I would like to note my appreciation for providing access to Chicago Tribune and other newspapers through PressReader. I have rarely used the public library in the past but this kind of digital access will certainly help use of public library." This comment inspired us to add the daily digital New York Times to our offerings as well.

Our Youth Services department is usually the busiest space in the Library, whether it's a morning story time for babies, an afternoon robotics class for school-aged children, a drop-in art workshop, or the simple joy of creative, collaborative play. FY 19-20 began with highlights like Summer Reading and the Yule Ball, but when the pandemic arrived, the Youth Services team sought out new ways to provide engaging experiences and professional expertise to customers of all ages.


Our Youth Services team members have really missed engaging with Library visitors, so they created a blog, using text, images, and videos to provide book suggestions, craft and tech activities, inspiration for parents and caregivers, wellness tips, and much more. From April-June, they wrote 27 posts, which have been viewed over 1,000 times. The blog continues to be updated, and you'll find the latest post on the Kids' home page.


While the Youth Services department has had a YouTube video channel for many years, it was reinvigorated in 2020. 95 new videos have been produced and shared since March 2020, with over 4,000 views. Whether you're looking for an interactive story time for your little readers, book talks for children and teens, craft and tech activities, and just plain fun with puppets, songs, rhymes, and your favorite Librarians, check out our YS YouTube channel! Live story times also take place weekly via Zoom.


Look Out For The Fitzgerald-Trouts by Esta Spalding was our 2020 Book of the Summer. The book was our most circulated juvenile title of the summer, with 116 readers earning a "Book of The Summer" digital badge, and a total of 152 readers logging in Look Out... or one of its sequels.

"The Fitzgerald-Trouts are a bit crazy, but when they act like themselves, they fit in perfectly, with each other. I think this is really the summer to stand out, to show that you are not afraid! So get out, (make sure you wear a mask) and do what you do best! Not for me, but for the Fitzgerald-Trouts!" Customer review of the Book of The Summer


The Library began offering Parking Lot Pick-Up service on June 15, 2020. More than 10,000 items were circulated during the first phase of Parking Lot Pick-Up, and we continue to offer this popular service.

"Curbside pickup was excellent!" Christine Olson, Google review
"Thank you! I've appreciated this service!" Cori Gullion Fiddes, Facebook comment
"Thank you so much for your hard work and service to our community. We appreciate your efforts and time so much." Tiffany de Harde, Instagram comment

BALIBRARY FY2019-2020 by the numbers

24,857 BALibrary cardholders and 5,033 reciprocal borrowers checked out a total of 664,865 items, including 438,710 physical items and 226,155 digital items in FY 19-20. That's an average of 22 items per borrower, a great return on your investment!

Check-Outs By Item Type:

  • Books: 263,350
  • DVDs: 150,538
  • E-Books: 103,478
  • Digital Magazines & Newspapers: 45,306
  • E-Audiobooks: 43,852
  • Digital Music: 24,885
  • CDs: 17,524
  • Streaming Video: 8,634
  • Print Magazines: 6,068
  • Miscellaneous: 1,230
  • TOTAL: 664,865

At The Reference Desk:

Library staff answered approximately 8,200 reference questions, and provided 258 one-one-one instructional sessions.

Interlibrary Loan:

  • Items loaned: 5,811
  • Items borrowed: 4,365

Computer Usage:

  • Wi-Fi Sessions: 167,492
  • Public Internet Computer Sessions: 14,917

What's On Shelf?

  • 120,557 books
  • 37,642 e-books
  • 273 print magazines, newspapers, serials
  • 3,929 CD audiobooks
  • 14,295 e-audiobooks
  • 8,246 CDs of music/spoken word
  • Millions of downloadable/streamable songs
  • 41,864 downloadable/streamable movies and TV shows

Top Titles for 2019-20

Top Five Adult Fiction Books:

Top Juvenile Books:

Top DVDs:

Top Five E-Books:

Better Together: Community Partners

Over the past year, the Barrington Area Library partnered with 108 local nonprofit organizations and businesses. These creative collaborations resulted in thoughtful learning experiences, resource sharing, exciting events, outreach visits, donations to food pantries and other worthwhile initiatives, and increased community volunteerism. We offer our sincere thanks to all of our local partners – let’s keep making great things happen together!

  • AARP
  • Advocate Good Shepherd Fitness Center
  • Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital
  • Alden Estates of Barrington
  • Rena Ballard
  • Barrington 220 School District and Schools
  • Barrington 4th of July Parade
  • Barrington American Legion
  • Barrington Animal Hospital
  • Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Barrington Area Community Foundation
  • Barrington Area Conservation Trust
  • Barrington Area Council of Governments
  • Barrington Area Council on Aging
  • Barrington Area Development Council
  • Barrington Area Ministerial Association
  • Barrington Area Moms Demand Action
  • Barrington Area United Way
  • Barrington Area Volunteer Connection
  • Barrington Bank & Trust Company
  • Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club
  • Barrington Cruise Night
  • Barrington Farmers Market
  • Barrington Lions Club
  • Barrington Park District
  • Barrington Township Food Pantry
  • Barrington’s White House
  • Susan Barzacchini
  • BStrong Together
  • Be The Change Barrington
  • Billet-Doux Couture Stationery
  • C2 Education Center
  • Campus Life Center
  • Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies, Northern Illinois University
  • Change Illinois
  • Chicago Botanic Garden
  • Chicago Master Gardeners
  • Chicago Wood Turners
  • Chris George
  • Ciao Baby
  • Citizens For Conservation
  • College of DuPage
  • Community Career Center
  • Consumer Credit Counseling
  • Cook Street Coffee
  • Courageous Conversations
  • Crabtree Nature Center
  • Cuba Township Food Pantry
  • Daughters of the American Revolution - Signal Hill Chapter
  • Doola
  • Chad Eaves
  • Elgin Symphony Orchestra
  • Forefront Chicago
  • Frantonio's
  • Kathi Frelk
  • The Garlands of Barrington
  • Girl Scouts - Northern Illinois | Go Green Barrington
  • Greencastle of Barrington
  • Harper College Community Outreach
  • Heinen's of Barrington
  • Honey Lake Bee Co.
  • Hope's In
  • House of Hope
  • Humanity Rising
  • Illinois Extension
  • Illinois Holocaust Museum
  • Independent Sector
  • In Her Shoes
  • JourneyCare
  • Kaleidoscope School of Fine Art
  • Caralyn Kempner
  • Stephanie Kennedy
  • Lake Barrington Woods
  • Lake County Forest Preserve District
  • Land Conservancy of McHenry County
  • League of Women Voters - McHenry County
  • League of Women Voters - Palatine Area
  • Let It Be Us
  • Love Inc.
  • Lurie Children's Hospital
  • The Lucky Monk
  • Mindful Waste
  • My College Planning Team
  • National Alliance On Mental Illness - Barrington Area
  • Native Seed Gardeners
  • Amber Nelson-Wolfe
  • The Newberry Library
  • Northwest Suburban Astronomers
  • Northwest Suburban Organizing For Action
  • One Life Kitchen
  • Primo Pizza
  • Quintessential Barrington
  • Rahab’s Daughters
  • Dina Rehab
  • Relax4Life
  • Sanfilippo Foundation
  • SCORE (volunteer business mentors)
  • Smart Farm
  • The Solana, Deer Park
  • SOUL Harbour Ranch
  • South Barrington Park District
  • University of Illinois at Ch
  • Vid For Web Productions
  • Village of Barrington
  • Village of Barrington Hills
  • Village of Deer Park
  • Walk-On Farm
  • Willow Recreation Center, Hoffman Estates
  • Winston Knolls Foundation For Thriving With Autism
  • ZaZa's Tavola Italiana


Barrington Area Library