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National Literacy Month at the North Chicago Public Library

Covid-19 has changed everything from how we interact with one another to how our children receive their education. As a community, North Chicago has collectively pushed forward through the pandemic and strived to get back to a state of normalcy. That said, September was National Literacy Month, and the North Chicago Public Library is open for business.

As a reader and purveyor of the written and spoken word, I am very familiar with libraries (including ours). The North Chicago Public Library on Argonne Drive in North Chicago has always been a valuable and at times untapped resource for our city.

On Tuesday, September 21st, I went to the library, updated my library card, and sat down to have a discussion with Jay Theobold, reference librarian, at the North Chicago Public Library on some of the things that North Chicago patrons could benefit from knowing about this space in their community.

NCTT: Jay, what does your job as a reference librarian require?

Jay: It requires a Masters Degree in Librarian Information and Library Sciences. Other than that, to apply for the job, you need to have two years of experience working at a public library. As for the job itself, I am basically in charge of the adult collection, that includes the CDs, DVDs, any online digital resources, the databases, the books of course and young adult books. I’m in charge of the Facebook page. I’m in charge of the newsletter—.

NCTT: So basically, you do a lot.

Jay: I do a lot.

NCTT: What are some of the best ways patrons can utilize the NCPL for National Literacy Month?

Jay: Well, if they can’t make it into the library but they still want to read something now that Covid is kicking up I would highly recommend that they check out some of our online eBook resources. Such as our Cloud Library with Access 360. That’s technically a consortium for different libraries within Illinois. We don’t own these materials, but we provide access to them. Other than that, if you can make it into the library, we’ll have a reading list ready for you to check out, and I love giving readers advisory. If you want a certain type of genre, I can usually find something for you, even if I am not familiar with it myself. I’ve been taking time out to find out who is good in genres that I don’t personally read. So, everyone can get something.

NCTT: Let’s say someone wanted to read (hypothetically) the history of making pastries. Nonfiction.

Jay: A nonfiction? If we don’t have it, I’d have to request it from another library. I am not sure if we would have something that specific. But we could request anything anyone wanted and it would get here in less than a week. So that is a service provide.

NCTT: Now, some people like to come to the library for job hunting, researching and of course, reading their favorite book. What else does the NCPL have to off the community?

Jay: Well, you mentioned job hunting. We recently got the A to Z database which helps with job preparation. It gives you resume templates and examples. Personally, both me and Curtis the security guard, who is wearing many hats these days, we help people apply for jobs and apply for their unemployment. Now, we can’t legally do it for them, but I am happy to look over their resumes to make sure that they are at least grammatically correct. Other than that, the databases have hundreds of thousands of active job links. It’s also pretty easy to help people set up an account for INDEED.COM.

NCTT: From the standpoint of working at a library in this community is there anything that you are working hard to combat.

Jay: Getting people in here isn’t necessarily difficult. However, increasing my circulation has got to be the hardest thing. People come into the NCPL to use our computers, to apply for a job, to get their forms copied, printed, and filled out, getting things printed from their phones, etc. They come in for the tech service but not for physical books which is kind of a struggle. I’m still looking into what circulates here and I’m trying to do what they call patron driven acquisition with a focus on what circulates and it’s kind of helped, but we are still not at where we want to be.

NCTT: Now, if you know someone is not a reader, how do you encourage them to pick up a book?

Jay: I’d just try to find out what their interest are and personally I don’t think there is anything wrong with comic books because that is how I learned to read. I would try to focus on what their interest are and what they are passionate about.

Now reader, National Literacy Month is every September, and is mainly focused on raising children to be avid readers. However, reading can be fundamental for adults as well. Reading helps flex your mental muscles, helps build your vocabulary, helps you sleep before bed, and makes the adult a good example for the children. Also, novels, history books, poetry and other facets of reading (fiction and nonfiction) can show the reader different perspectives and allow them to feel different things.

National Literacy Month is over, however the North Chicago Public Library is open and if you need that research, if you need to find a new job, if you just want a positive mental escape for you and your children that does not include spending money, I suggest you visit the North Chicago Public Library.

They even have notaries on staff for your important documents. And that service is also free.

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