Skokie Library chief elected to key post
Skokie Public Library Director Carolyn Anthony was recently elected president of the 11,000-member Public Library Association. Anthony is seen here displaying books chosen for the annual Coming Together in Skokie program. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
WHO: Carolyn Anthony
WHAT: Skokie Public Library Director
HOW LONG: 26 Years
LATEST: Elected president of the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association.
Updated: August 6, 2012 6:42AM
Honors, accolades and awards are nothing new to the renowned Skokie Public Library.
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that Skokie Public Library Director Carolyn Anthony has been elected the 2013-14 president of the Public Library Association.
One of the fastest growing divisions of the American Library Association, the Public Library Association has a goal to provide “a diverse program of communication, publication, advocacy, continuing education, and programming” for those interested in advancing public library service.
Becoming president is no small-time victory as the Public Library Association has about 11,000 members from across the country. About 6,000 votes were cast to make Anthony the next president.
Anthony was one of two candidates for the top position several years ago and lost by six votes. Her victory this time over a candidate from New York was not as close.
“Involvement in (the Public Library Association) has been an integral part of my professional career,” Anthony said on her Facebook campaign page. “I have been an engaged library advocate, a spokesperson for intellectual freedom and a true believer in the difference public libraries can make in their communities.”
She began her career with the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the Baltimore County Public Library before coming to Skokie as director 26 years ago.
Under her leadership, the Skokie Library was recognized by the Institute of Museum and Library Services with a National Medal in 2008. She is past President of the Illinois Library Association and was named Librarian of the Year in Illinois in 2003. She is an active member of the Urban Libraries Council.
Her involvement in the American Library Association and the Public Library Association dates back to early in her career. Anthony has served on the American Library Association Council and has chaired its Committees on Education and Public and Cultural Programs.
She served on the Public Library Association Board from 1987-89 and again from 2005-2009 and has helped develop its Planning Process, chairing the Public Libraries Advisory Board. She represented the Public Library Association at the Congress on Professional Education and is currently chairing its Leadership Task Force.
“I think this is a really critical time for public libraries,” she said. “Some people are questioning do libraries have a future and are they still needed because everyone uses e-books and Google.”
She is the perfect leader to answer that question with a resounding yes.
“We do have a purpose,” she said, “but it’s a time of change and libraries have to be responsive.”
Anthony has two major initiatives for her time as president. As current chair of the Leadership Task Force, she wants to develop a model for what leadership means for public libraries.
“Leadership in public libraries means working well with local officials and other partners on serving community needs,” she said. “Libraries can’t be a stand-alone institution and be internally focused.”
There are still libraries, she said, that go about their business without reaching out enough to the community. A planning grant of $45,000 will enable the Public Library Association to reach libraries with a new model.
Anthony’s second initiative is to redefine how libraries are evaluated.
“There is a need to have better metrics to describe what it is that libraries do,” Anthony said. “For so long, we’ve relied on reporting numbers for reference requests and circulation.”
For many libraries, those numbers have gone down as libraries have changed in what they offer their communities.
In Skokie’s case, the library offers diverse technology learning, job counseling, arts programs and many other activities important to the daily lives of patrons.
“There’s all kinds of things libraries do now,” the president-elect said. “The old model and the way many people still see libraries is as a passive institution. But the public library is a much more active agent in the community and is going out there much more now to meet people’s needs.”