Nov. 2 was a big day in the life of Lorene Kennard. The lifelong Chicago Cubs fan not only got the chance to watch the team win its first World Series in more than a century, she also got a new job that night – as the new director of the North Riverside Public Library.
Kennard will take the reins in North Riverside on Dec. 5, taking over from Ted Bodewes who left Oct. 1 to become director of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Western Springs.
Library district board President Annette Corgiat said Kennard’s engaging sense of humor was appealing. In addition, Corgiat said she admired Kennard’s “relaxed” responses to various situations the board confronted her with during the interview process.
Board members also were impressed with Kennard’s focus during her finalist interview on program planning that would engage families.
“I think she really had all the right answers,” Corgiat said. “She fit the bill as to what she wants to do with respect to servicing.”
Kennard was hired in June 2014 to be the director of the Morris Area Public Library in Grundy County, southwest of Joliet. She spent eight years prior to that job as the library manager at the investment research firm Morningstar Inc. and operated her own research consulting firm for five years.
She served as adult services librarian at White Oak Library in Romeoville for six years and as interim director at the Pontiac Public Library before getting hired for the lead job in Morris.
In Morris, Kennard said she focused on raising the library’s profile in the community, even appearing on a weekly radio show to tout programs. The library’s website was upgraded during her tenure in Morris, she worked to increase programming for adults, children and teens and was involved in long-term and space planning.
Kennard’s tenure in Morris was also marked by a bit of drama in July 2015 when she fired a children’s librarian who’d been with the institution for almost 40 years. After a petition drive and a public meeting that attracted more than 100 people, the Morris library board reinstated the librarian, who announced her retirement five months later.
Increasing the library’s visibility in the community is something Kennard said North Riverside library officials would also like to see.
“They want to see me out in the community meeting with neighborhood groups and promoting the library to the community,” Kennard said.
Kennard will also be leading the implementation of a strategic plan that was completed under Bodewes.
“I think libraries need to make sure we stay relevant and provide more than just books and movies,” Kennard said, adding that the library provides a number of electronic resources that some in the community might not have access to otherwise.
“Libraries are becoming community centers,” Kennard said. “A lot of groups use our meeting rooms for get-togethers. We’re becoming more community centers than just a place to check out a book.”
The library board received more than a dozen applications for the job. Alice Calabrese of Calaberry Consulting led the search process for the board. She had also conducted the search that brought Bodewes to North Riverside.
“It’s an easy job to sell because the building is just spectacular, and also the community I believe is very engaged in the library,” said Corgiat. “People come here all the time.”