Executive Director Karen Danczak Lyons  announces retirement

The Evanston Public Library announced Friday that, after a decade serving Evanston’s library patrons, Executive Director Karen Danczak Lyons will be stepping down from her post. 

Danczak Lyons said that with several initiatives around the library recently completed and new initiatives on the horizon, the timing was right for her transition and for new leadership. Her final day will be June 17, 2022. 

“I believe that part of being a leader is knowing when to leave and make space for what’s next,” Danczak Lyons said. “I am proud of the work we have accomplished together under my leadership, and I want to allow for a smooth transition to ensure our important work continues.” 

During Danczak Lyons’ tenure as executive director, the Evanston Public Library adopted a new vision and business model for the Library that goes beyond the walls of library buildings and book stacks to engage and resource residents where they live and gather. 

That vision has meant expanding and bringing new, innovative services to Evanston, from lending technology like WiFi hotspots and job search tech kits to bridge the digital divide, to expanding virtual programming and digital offerings in response to the pandemic and the community’s changing needs, to hiring a library social worker to connect our most vulnerable residents to community resources. 

The Library has also concentrated on refocusing its work and decision-making processes through an equity lens. That includes opening a branch in the Robert Crown Community Center with an emphasis on programming for underserved residents and Spanish-speaking patrons, evaluating options for a branch in the Fifth Ward, developing a more diverse talent pipeline of librarians with tuition reimbursement and new positions designed to engage underrepresented communities, eliminating overdue fines to reduce barriers to access and adopting an equity statement and a transitioning policy as declarations of the Library’s values. 

Danczak Lyons said she is also proud of the work the Library has done to strengthen partnerships throughout the Evanston community and engage residents more deeply through community listening sessions and an asset-based community development model. 

“Our biggest asset in this community is our talented, passionate community members, from our patrons, to our partners, volunteers, donors, and especially our staff,” Danczak Lyons said. “It has truly been an honor to work alongside you to meet the ever-changing needs of our residents.”

We thank Karen for her more than 10 years of service to the Library and the Evanston community,” Library Board of Trustees President Tracy Fulce said, “and we are grateful for an extraordinary staff who will lead us into the future.”

“Karen has been an extraordinary and visionary leader for the Evanston Public Library, and she has made a lasting impact on our community through her decade of service,” said Interim Evanston City Manager Kelley Gandurski. “Under Karen’s leadership, library services have expanded far beyond the buildings’ walls, connecting residents of all ages and demographics with books, resources, employment opportunities, technology, skills, and even a better understanding and appreciation for one another. I thank Karen for her outstanding service and wish her the very best in the future.”

The Board will name an interim director while a national search is conducted. 


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