When William O’Hearn joined the Lincoln Library as the director in July of 2017, he set out to embrace the library’s motto, “Empower/ Connect/ Inspire.” O’Hearn said from the start, “I want people to see us not just as the building, but as part of the community, helping people.”
O’Hearn has been around libraries since he was a kid; his mother took him and his brother to the local library in Marengo, Illinois, every Friday after school. In high school he got a job in the library, as he says, “just to earn some gas money,” but he never seriously considered a career in library services. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and human resources from Northern Illinois University in 2007 and began work in business. However, he wasn’t fulfilled. His love of library work and doing research led to a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee in 2011. O’Hearn explains, “I thought if I could get paid to look up searches like I got to do in the library – wow! And that’s what a librarian does.”
The library continues to increase its many offerings, and people are often surprised to hear about the classes, clubs, contests and community outreach that the library offers for anyone, no matter their age.
Summer is a busy time at the library, hosting movies, teen scene, live performances and music. This past summer’s reading program drew close to 1,000 children and adults for activities, raffles and fun when participants completed a set number of hours of reading.
During the school year, the library is also active. On any given day, there could be a community group in one of the meeting rooms. Tutoring for ESL (English as a Second Language) is offered weekly on Thursdays. Book clubs – the Contemporary Club or Nonfiction Club – meet to discuss the latest books. The chess club meets periodically and Stitch-uation, held at 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month, offers people a chance to share their latest crafting item. The fourth Thursday of the month is game night at Buzz Bomb Brewery on Adams Street. A workout night at the library may be repeated in 2019.
On Jan. 26, the third annual Samefest Storyteller Day will be held, focused on cultural awareness and understanding through table displays and sharing of stories and folklore. Samefest is one of the biggest events at the library.
Another huge event is the annual book sale, scheduled for June 8, 2019. Tables loaded with books, tapes and more in all genres surround the library and draw hundreds of people browsing for a great deal. The library will have an indoor book sale this year on Jan. 12, mainly selling paperbacks, but also offering other media.
Other popular events are scheduled story times, led by experienced storytellers, who know how to weave literacy lessons into the readings. The library’s website lists many offerings: listen to a short story by calling Dial-a-Story (217-525-5000), access “e-read” for lists of books geared for various ages, or sign up for an email to get notifications of new titles in various genres. There is also an online video library.
O’Hearn believes that technology is an important part of the library. Technology offerings include computer classes and help with applications for jobs. O’Hearn points to the work with homeless people who have found jobs through the help the library has provided. An online program called Brainfuse offers review and feedback on resumes and cover letters with a live person. And, there is also help for those who want to earn a GED.
O’Hearn says, “The library offers so much to our community. We have much more we are planning, but currently there is something for everyone at our public library.”
Cinda Ackerman Klickna is a freelance writer from Rochester; she wishes Rochester could be part of the Lincoln Library system.