First big task for new Vernon Area Public Library director: Revisit expansion plan

  • Anne Rasmussen will join the Vernon Area Public Library District staff as its new director in September.

    Anne Rasmussen will join the Vernon Area Public Library District staff as its new director in September. Courtesy of Vernon Area Public Library

  • Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a drive-up window on the south side of the Vernon Area Public Library in Lincolnshire is the only element of an expansion plan that has been implemented. It falls to incoming Director Anne Rasmussen to lead the reshaping of that plan.

      Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a drive-up window on the south side of the Vernon Area Public Library in Lincolnshire is the only element of an expansion plan that has been implemented. It falls to incoming Director Anne Rasmussen to lead the reshaping of that plan. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/29/2022 4:57 PM

When Anne Rasmussen joins the staff of the Vernon Area Public Library as its new director in two weeks, one of the first big projects to tackle will be the expansion plan that was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adding more study rooms was among the changes recommended for the Lincolnshire-based facility. So was adding more public meeting spaces.

 

But the pandemic has changed how people gather, library spokeswoman Catherine Savage said, and those amenities may not be priorities for the community anymore.

New studies on library usage will be a "very high priority," Savage said.

"The new director is going to start fresh," she said.

Rasmussen's first day at Vernon Area, 300 Olde Half Day Road, will be Sept. 12. She comes from the Milwaukee Public Library, where she's the associate director of strategic initiatives and public services.

Rasmussen will succeed longtime library leader Cynthia Fuerst, who retired in July.

Rasmussen said she's looking forward to her new role and to listening to patrons, community members, board members and the staff about what they find useful and desirable in a library. She also wants to dive into data about library usage.

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"With both qualitative and quantitative information, we at the library will be best positioned to make well thought-out, intentional decisions to serve our patrons moving forward," Rasmussen said Monday in an email.

Determining the community's needs will be an important assignment when it comes to the proposed building project.

Library officials worked on the plan with architectural consultants for a few years before the pandemic. But the only element implemented was a drive-up window near the entrance that was built last year.

Every other recommendation -- including relocating the entrance to a spot closer to where people park and a building expansion on the north side -- was put on hold because of COVID-19.

Rasmussen thinks the last two years have emphasized the need for human connectedness. Libraries can help, she said.

"Libraries have long been known to serve as trusted connectors in the community, and I see this continuing," Rasmussen said. She expects library services and spaces will need to be flexible. That could mean spaces with modular furniture and walls, and programs that are in person, online or a mix of both, she said.

The library board is eager to restart the expansion project in whatever form it may take, Savage said.

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