How the Schaumburg Library inspired one woman's career
"I was wondering if you have a photo or two of the library from the 1980s. I spent quite a bit of my childhood at this library. I believe I read all your mythology books, Greek, Norse and Egyptian."
So started an email we received earlier this year from Dana Knott. Needless to say, we were intrigued. All the mythology books? Wow!
We followed up, sharing some photos and pointing Dana to our digital archive if she needed even more photos. After that, we kept the conversation going and learned that Dana is the library director at Columbus State Community College, a career that was, in part, inspired by her days spent at Schaumburg Library as a child.
Dana grew up in Hoffman Estates. She even remembers the exact address of her childhood home on Lafayette Lane. She reminisced about watching Medieval Times being built and attending Hillcrest Elementary until it was closed when she was in fourth grade.
"My brother, sister and I would ride our bikes to the Hoffman Estates Branch, but also loved the bigger location in Schaumburg," Knott said.
She remembered taking Dial-A-Ride to the Schaumburg Library, grabbing crinkled dollar bills from her pocket to pay as she boarded the bus.
"When I was younger, I was really into mythology books. And Schaumburg Library had an awesome mythology section with everything from Greek to Norse to Chinese to folk tales. It was my goal to read that whole section," Dana said.
"One of the books I read was 'Heraclea.' It was a rewriting of the Hercules myth, making the central character a woman. I absolutely loved it."
Over time, Dana would check to see if "Heraclea" was still in our collection. While it's not here anymore, her husband gave her a copy of the book for her own personal collection of mythology books.
"When I was younger, I was also really into vampires and ghosts. And I remember a Schaumburg Library staff member telling me the library had a ghost," Dana said.
"Now, looking back, I wonder if she just saw the stack of books in my arms and maybe wanted to make a connection and encourage my imagination. Either way, it's a fond memory."
Still, at that point, Dana hadn't thought about working in a library. She got her degree in English and taught college English for a while.
"Then, one day, it dawned on me how much I love libraries, and so I got my Masters of Library Sciences," Knott said. "And I'm still just in awe of public libraries, of all they do and how they've evolved, and how essential they are to their communities."
But we had to know: Why was Dana looking for photos of our library from the 1980s? Was it simply nostalgia, or something more?
"I'm teaching a class at Antioch University focused on storytelling and identity. One assignment asks students to find photos that represent cultural influences in their lives and I wanted to give an example from my own life," Dana said.
"And was thinking, 'what are places that had a deep impact on me?' That's when I thought if I could get a picture of the Schaumburg Library from the 1980s, I could share the vivid memories and deep impact Schaumburg Library has had on me, while also sharing with my students all about libraries and why they are a vital part of our society.
"Schaumburg Library was my childhood paradise," Dana said. "I've always loved the serendipity of just walking among the stacks of books and having something grab your eye. The library fed my soul and my imagination.
"And to have that kind of access to so much information is crucial," Dana said. "We forget that people don't always have the luxury or privilege to be able to buy books for their homes, or to have a computer or Wi-Fi. That's just not the case. And that's where public libraries come in."
Well said, Dana. While we have plenty of books, including more than 1,200 just about Greek mythology, Schaumburg Library, and all public libraries, offer so much more to the communities we serve.
Libraries are places where everyone is welcome to come and freely read, learn and discover.
• Hollis Sienkiewicz is the director of Marketing and Communications at the Schaumburg Township District Library. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.