By Bob Uphues
Hoping to stop what's been a revolving door to the director's office during the past three and a half years, the North Riverside Public Library district Board of Trustees has hired Natalie Bazan as the library's new full-time director.
Bazan, 36, started her job Feb. 12 after an eight-month stint as the director of the River Valley District Library in Port Byron, a small town overlooking the Mississippi River near the Quad Cities.
"She did a wonderful two interviews with us," said library board President Annette Corgiat. "She's very knowledgeable and has done a lot."
Bazan was just 28 years old and had never worked as a library administrator when, in 2011, she landed her first job as part-time director of the tiny public library in Hopkins, Michigan – in the midst of a referendum campaign to create a public library district.
The referendum – the first tax increase vote for the library in more than a decade – was a success, and Bazan would remain director in Hopkins for almost six years, picking another part-time director job in Door Township, Michigan, a 15-minute drive away.
"By me getting out in the community, they had a face to put with the library," said Bazan. "Having the director out there and being able to see that person and realize that they care is always a huge thing."
In 2017, Bazan relocated to Illinois – to a small town near Elgin – to be with her fiancé and landed the director's job in Port Byron. The daily commute was two hours each way, so the roughly 50-minute drive to North Riverside will be a comparative breeze.
Bazan and her fiancé, Jim Starosta, plan to wed in May. If his last name sounds familiar, it might be because he is the son of retired Brookfield Fire Capt. Joseph Starosta and he graduated from Riverside-Brookfield High School.
When Bazan saw the North Riverside job posting online and looked at a map, she saw it was next to Brookfield Zoo. She asked Starosta if he knew about the village, and he replied, "I basically grew up there."
Bazan, who has a master's degree in library science from the University of Illinois and a master's in Slavic language and literature from the University of Kansas, is the North Riverside Public Library's fifth director since mid-2014, when longtime director Bob Lifka retired.
Lifka was replaced by Ted Bodewes, who was at North Riverside about two years before moving on to the Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Western Springs.
In November 2016, the board hired Lorene Kennard, who lasted less than a year and parted company last September. Since that time, retired longtime Elmhurst Public Library Director Marilyn Boria has guided the North Riverside institution while the board searched for a permanent replacement.
Corgiat said Boria will remain on board for at least two to three more weeks to provide a transition and finish up some projects she's been working on for the past several months.
"I can't say enough about Marilyn," Corgiat said. "We had a lot of things changing and she got us right back to where we were. She's been our guiding light."
Bazan spent the morning of her first day at work mainly getting acquainted with the facility and staff and meeting with Boria.
She said she is hoping to connect the library with more community groups and expand programs and services.
"This library has a lot to offer," Bazan said.
According to Corgiat, Bazan's starting annual salary is $66,500.