Wilmette Public Library Year in Review July 2019-October 2020

2019-2020 has been an extraordinary year. As the library has grappled with creating a new normal, we have also continued to learn, share, and grow with our Wilmette community. Join us as we look back at this most unusual year.

Celebrating our Successes

Wilmette Public Library received its first five-star rating in Library Journal's annual statistical review of public libraries, and is one of only seven libraries in Illinois to earn that distinction. This was our second consecutive year being honored as a star library.

In July, longtime library trustee Dr. Ronald Rodgers was honored as Trustee of the Year by the Illinois Library Association. A trustee since 1984, Dr. Rodgers’ vision and leadership have helped guide the library through leadership changes, successful referenda, and construction projects.

Learning and Exploring Together

Highlights of our in-person programs and services included:

  • In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing, we hosted a popular series on the Apollo missions, including an evening field trip to the Dearborn Observatory.
  • Staff introduced all-ages Maker labs in the fall of 2019, providing twice-monthly opportunities for crafting, making, and creating with the assistance of library staff and tools, including our new 3d printer.
  • We hosted author Susan Orlean in October 2019 as part of our popular Meet the Author series. An audience of 200 listened to her speak about her experience writing and researching her non-fiction book The Library Book.
  • 85 adults and teens and 523 children participated in our Winter Reading Clubs, an opportunity to celebrate reading during the dark winter months.
Visit to the Dearborn Observatory.
More than 700 people attended our second Maker Fest, a celebration of making and creativity in our community. Visitors of all ages enjoyed hands-on craft projects, engineering challenges, and learning from local experts. Learn more about Maker Fest
Numbers reflect July 1 2019-June 30 2020.

A Safety-First Service Model

As COVID-19 began to spread rapidly in February and early March, library staff worked with a coalition of Wilmette organizations to determine how best to keep residents and employees safe. On March 13, in accordance with guidelines from local health departments and Governor Pritzker's shelter-in-place order, Wilmette Public Library closed indefinitely to help slow the spread of the virus.

With the library building closed, library staff immediately pivoted to providing virtual services. Utilizing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, staff upped our communications, created new virtual-friendly programs, and provided robust online reference services. Librarians were busy growing our online collections, ensuring that while the physical collection was unavailable, patrons would have access to thousands of ebooks and downloadable audiobooks for all ages and interests.

In June, we began offering some on-site services, including book returns and our new contact-free Parking Lot Pickup services. We continued to expand our services, reopening the building on July 13. Our reduced service model prioritized patron and staff safety, while providing ways to access our collections and services in a variety of COVID-safe ways.

Parking Lot Pickup, which debuted in July 2020, provides a safe, contact-free way for patrons to borrow items from our physical collection. Library staff have served more than 2200 Parking Lot Pickup appointments.

A Commitment to Antiracism, Equity, and Diversity

As Americans grappled with racism and the Black Lives Matter movement protested in cities across the country, Wilmette Public Library shared our commitment to helping create a more equitable society. We have focused on promoting diversity in our collections and our programs; featuring speakers and authors for all ages, including speakers from the Montgomery Travelers; activism programs for teenagers; and workshops for parents to discuss racism with their children.

In October, we hosted our first-ever virtual Meet the Author event. Arshay Cooper, author of A Most Beautiful Thing, discussed his powerful memoir with an audience of more than 350.

Learn more about Arshay and A Most Beautiful Thing.

Our Summer of Reading

As our services pivoted to a virtual model, library staff crafted our first-ever all-virtual Summer Reading Club. With options for Adults, teens, and children, the new program provided activities and incentive prizes to encourage a lasting love of reading. This year’s club, named Our Summer of Reading, focused on enjoying books, and forging a sense of connection even while we are apart. Finishers in all of our clubs received a gift card to The Book Stall.

Our adult summer reading club was focused on exploring different genres. Participants were asked to read books in four different genres, and report on them via an online form. To support this exploration, librarians created an array of genre-specific reading lists, and hosted a weekly Book Buzz video to discuss their favorite books in various genres. 165 patrons completed the Adult Summer Reading Club.

For kids and teens, librarians focused on a colorful design, with an accompanying poster and promotional video, focusing on reading from birth through high school. Participants were encouraged to read for 20 days, and received an ice cream gift card for reporting at the half way mark. 538 participants reported at the halfway mark, and 498 reported for the gift card finisher prize.

Virtual programs are live, interactive programs hosted over Zoom. Passive programs include anything librarian created and patron led, such as Storywalks, STEAM Kits, and pre-recorded storytime videos.

Creating Connections

Library staff created programs, activities, and experiences to help foster connections even while our community was largely staying home. With no in-person programming and reduced building access, staff nimbly created a diverse array to keep patrons interested, active, and connected with each other and the library.

  • Maker Kits provide STEAM-focused hands-on activities. Kits are available to be picked up at the library and completed at home with the help of a pre-recorded video from our librarians. The library offers Maker kits for kids and teens.
  • A 4-part series focused on the 2020 election provided clear and useful information during this most unusual election season.
  • Online games have provided an outlet for fun and connection. Teens have played an array of games, including Animal Crossing, Dungeons & Dragons, and Jackbox Games, while adults have enjoyed trivia nights on a variety of pop-culture topics, including Twin Peaks, The Office, and more.
  • Armchair Travels programs have been more popular than ever, as patrons enjoy an afternoon of escapism from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
  • Youth Services expanded our popular Storywalks, as our parks are a safe way for families to enjoy outdoor time. In addition to our long-running Storywalk in Vattman Park, Wilmette residents enjoyed a RiddleWalk at Mallinckrodt Park in the summer, and a new Storywalk at the Recreation Center this fall.
  • In July, Youth Services began hosting live, interactive storytimes over Zoom, filmed in the Youth Services Program Room. These interactive storytimes promote early literacy while building connections with our librarians, even from afar.


Both before and after the pandemic, community partnerships have served as a foundational cornerstone of the library. Our partnership with the Wilmette school districts, Park District, Village, and organizations including The Friends of the Wilmette Public Library and the Wilmette/Kenilworth League of Women Voters, have enriched our services and helped make this unusual year more seamless for our patrons. Here are just a few of the ways the library has partnered with Wilmette organizations this year:

  • A united decision-making coalition in March between the schools, park, library, fire and police departments, and village government, to provide centralized messaging regarding COVID-19 safety and service changes, including closures.
  • Book groups and election information with the League of Women Voters.
  • Program funding and support from the Friends of the Library, including funding long running series such as The Shakespeare Project of Chicago.
  • A pilot program to provide incoming kindergarteners with a Wilmette library card.
  • Custom book deliveries to local preschools to support their early reading initiatives.


The library is committed to implementing ecologically-conscious solutions for our operations, building, and grounds to serve as stewards of our shared environment. Recent projects include the snow melt system beneath our new entry plaza hardscape, revitalized all-native landscape, and LED lighting replacements.

In 2020, the library completed a comprehensive Capital Reserve Study to better understand the condition of our building and prioritize needed repairs or replacements. This study provides a road map for maintenance projects and will help ensure that major projects are responsibly funded from our capital reserves.

The library Board and Administration are also reviewing our funding model and policies to responsibly manage our assets. The library reduced its levy by 2.5% in 2017, further reduced the levy by 5.5% in 2018, and held that same rate for both 2019 and 2020.