For Those With Dementia: The Memory Cafe is Open

The Evanston Public Library is bringing a new season of art, music, movement and more with the Memory Café, this year conducted virtually on Zoom. Memory Cafe programming offers enrichment activities for people living with dementia or other memory changes and their care partners. The events are social, fun, and offer engaging opportunities that are stimulating and interesting, while providing an important social outlet in a time of potential isolation. The Memory Cafe will takes place every Thursday from 11 am to 12 pm.


  • 1st Thursday of the month: Music (9/3, 10/1, 11/5, 12/3)
  • 2nd Thursday of the month: Movement (9/10, 10/8, 11/12, 12/10)
  • 3rd Thursday of the month: Show and Tell: Bring an Object or Picture to Share (9/17, 10/15, 11/19, 12/17)
  • 4th Thursday of the month: Art (9/24, 10/22)
  • 5th Thursday of the month: Learn about Dementia Resource Kits

People with dementia or other memory changes and their care partners are important stakeholders in the Evanston community. The virtual gatherings offer them a dedicated program to broaden their opportunities for entertainment and education.

We are very pleased to partner for the Memory Cafe with CMSS Senior Connections, CJE Senior Life, the Levy Center of the City of Evanston, the Chicago Center for Cognitive Wellness, and Renewal Care Partners in this endeavor. Funding for this program is provided in part by Age Options.

For questions, registration, or more information please email or call the Library at 847-448-8630.

Technology Opens Windows to Your Library and the Pandemic World

by Joshua Perry, Medill 2023, EPL Summer Volunteer

Luke Thompson is used to working the technology desk at the Evanston Public Library (EPL). He described it as being a bartender, a social worker, and a therapist all at once. But now, working through the COVID-19 pandemic, he has at various times felt like just a face on a screen.

“It’s difficult to establish relationships with people, I suppose, because you’re not seeing them daily,” Thompson said.

What Thompson misses most is the social aspect of his work, what he considered one of the biggest responsibilities of the job, enjoying the company of visitors. The regulars are often seniors who he’s formed a connection with.

“It’s that they’re just completely lonely. Before, they would just hang out at the library all day,” he said. “So they’ll have long conversations with me. And that’s often the only conversation they’ll have that day.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything about our community, including how the Library operates within it. While the Library has reopened again, visits are time limited, and staff and patrons need to maintain their distance. Many seniors avoid going out all together. Most of us have never been so far apart. But the Library is more than just a physical space—it’s a community within itself, a community dedicated to keeping Evanstonians connected and strong. And with the help of virtual programming, technology, and committed staff, its work has continued.

Social distancing has forced us all to get used to a digital day-to-day life, and the transition has been anything but easy. It’s Sergio Gonzalez’s job to help fix that.

Sergio Gonzalez

As a Tech Trainer at the Library, his personally-tailored lessons, available in English or Spanish, can cover anything from connecting to the internet to constructing a website. These sessions can no longer happen physically. However, with the help of video conference tools like Zoom, Gonzalez’s work, more important now than ever, has carried on. Many people he’s worked with were uneasy in a virtual environment at first, but Gonzalez said they just needed time to adjust.

“They’re getting more comfortable, because they know we can help them,” Gonzalez said. “It doesn’t matter that they are not here.” 

Having to adapt to a world that functions virtually is a challenge everyone has to face in the pandemic’s new normal, but Gonzalez said the Library can be a valuable learning space for those who lack digital literacy.

“This is the most important thing we need to share with them,” he said. “They’re going to make mistakes with us, but they’re going to be ready in the moment they really need it.”

“It’s good because we are changing the way people think about the library…It’s not about books, it’s not about eBooks–it’s about the service that we provide, our professional service,” Gonzalez said.

The Library’s duties range far beyond providing basic information. One of its most important tasks in this time has been connecting Evanstonians to essential services and benefits. 

In mid-August, the Illinois Housing Development Authority opened the online application for a new $5,000 Emergency Rental Assistance program for those impacted by the pandemic. However, according to Miguel Ruiz, Supervising Librarian of the newly-opened Robert Crown Library Branch, the digital literacy barrier posed a problem for many vulnerable households, especially families who spoke English as a second language or not at all.

Miguel Ruiz

That’s why EPL took action to ensure that this crucial support reached those who needed it most, Ruiz said. In partnership with the nonprofit Evanston Latinos, the tech-savvy and bilingual Robert Crown Branch Library staff provided in-person assistance for Evanstonians in the application process.

“That was a big deal, because it was a short notice announcement from the IHDA,” Ruiz said. “And so we had to think fast and figure out how to support our families.”

The Robert Crown Library Branch has also been hosting education sessions for community cohorts on topics like health, finance, technology use, and more. Ruiz said he’s been seeing a lot of positive feedback from members of the public, like the senior citizens who routinely visit for tech support, access to a computer or even just a place to be a part of the community—safely.

“They really appreciate having us there while we’re open for our limited hours, especially because we’re taking really seriously these precautions—social distance, always wearing masks, you know. They feel comfortable in our space.”

Ruiz said that there has been a bit of a silver lining in the current state of affairs: a newfound focus on fostering a virtual environment and exploring the potential of online interaction. However, this focus has also brought to light signs of a digital divide that prevents some community members from keeping up.

“I think (the pandemic) has allowed us to think differently about the services we provide,” Ruiz said. “But I think it is a challenge, especially when you’re talking about how you provide services in a virtual space when in fact, some families don’t have access to the internet at home, or don’t have access to a computer, or have language barriers.”

Librarian Heather Norborg said that the digital divide in Evanston is very real.

“That’s an issue that the library has been working on, aware of, and trying to address for many years,” she said. “But with this pandemic, and the fact that everyone is isolated, and only able to interact in online spaces and virtually, it’s shown us even more where the gaps are and how some people are being left behind.”

The Library has been working to combat these technological barriers in the community, lending Wi-Fi hotspots and some chromebooks to Evanston Public Library card holders to connect more households across town to the internet. The chromebook lending is about to increase with new initiatives, including a laptop vending machine at the Robert Crown Library Branch, to make them more widely available this fall.

Connecting people has also been an important duty for the Library. When the risks of COVID-19 broke up meetings of the Foster Senior Club, a group of primarily Black seniors in Evanston, the Library dispatched tech workers to host their weekly meetings on Zoom, provided equipment to those who needed it, and helped move that valued community space to a virtual environment. 

“It’s a group that we were visiting with previously in person,” Norborg said. “I think that the way that we helped solve their tech issues was very helpful to them…Being able to maintain social connections—that’s so important for everyone’s wellbeing.”

Another project in development, targeted specifically for those the pandemic has put out of work, is job searching kits. Part of a partnership between the Library and National Able Network, an employment assistance nonprofit, Norborg said this program will provide the tools a job seeker needs to access the internet at home and utilize test prep or job readiness resources in their search.

“We have more than 200 active partnerships with organizations, other city agencies, nonprofits, schools, etc.,” Norborg said. “I think that this crisis has just shown how vital those connections are, and the importance of keeping them active.”

Thompson’s work has continued virtually as well. He assists George Lowman and Carolyn Young, volunteers who teach curious community members at the Library’s Thursday Tech Tutorials through the organization Wise Up: Aging with Attitude. The two-hour Zoom sessions focus on a range of areas in the digital world, such as navigating different smartphone operating systems, or learning how to run a Mac, or using iPhone cameras to their fullest potential. The sessions have been going on weekly during the summer, but will run twice a week in the fall.

Additionally, Thompson’s duties providing one-on-one tech support for the community have continued—now via phone support.

He’s seen a huge amount of positive feedback from those he’s helped, but he thinks there are more people out there who could benefit from the Library’s resources. There’s so much to the role of the Library’s staff that goes unnoticed or underutilized, he said.

“The Library’s offering all these great services around a facility with computers and other technology and…I think people just don’t know about it,” he said.

Adds Executive Director Karen Danczak Lyons, “There’s so much more available at the Library than just books. If you want to check it out, all you have to do is ask.”

For more information about all the resources and services available at Evanston Public Library, please visit or call us at 847-448-8630. 


Evanston Public Library Adopts New Policy to Protect Transgender Staff

Transgender employees at Evanston Public Library as well as those transitioning to that status will be protected under a new policy that was adopted by the Library’s Board of Trustees on Feb. 19. Read the complete story by Bob Seidenberg in The Evanston Roundtable.Evanston Public Library

How To Listen to a Podcast

Podcast IconHow To Listen to a Podcast

With the launching of the Evanston Public Library’s podcast, The Check Out, it’s time for a review of how to use this wonderful entertainment and communication tool, the podcast. Think of it as the key to an incredible new treasury of ideas, advice, and entertainment, like a radio station where you get to choose what to hear and when to hear it. It’s as easy as A,B,C.

A. Click on a podcasting site on your computer, smart phone, or tablet by way of the app called Podcasts. It looks like an upside-down exclamation mark with two circles around it.

B. Search for a specific podcast or browse in categories that interest you. You can click on the link for each podcast you want. You can listen right away on your computer (Windows, Mac and Linux support podcasting) or download the podcast to your portable tablet or phone.

C. You can subscribe to get a podcast on a regular basis. For example, as a subscriber, you will receive The Check Out regularly, every two weeks during its season.

Listen to your choice of podcasts whenever and wherever you’d like: at home, in the car, in the gym, walking down the street. How to choose what to listen to? It’s up to you. Ask us for recommendations!

The Check Out is a podcast of Evanston Public Library that introduces listeners to Evanston residents or people working in Evanston who are actively engaged in making the community better, and other noteworthy pursuits. The first season of The Check Out launched in January 2020. Podcast

“The Check Out” Podcast Features People of Evanston

EPL launches podcast: The Check OutEvanston Public Library launched The Check Out on January 14, 2020, a podcast that introduces listeners to Evanston residents or people working in Evanston who are actively engaged in making the community better, and other noteworthy pursuits. The podcast, hosted by EPL Community Engagement Coordinator Jill Schacter, features interviews with Evanstonians involved in fields such as the arts, history, nonprofits and community development.

“Other libraries’ podcasts are often about books,” The Check Out host Jill Schacter said. “Evanstonians love Evanston so much that it just made sense to make our podcast more community-focused. We want The Check Out to give people in the community a voice. Along the way, listeners might just learn something about the role the library plays in the community, too.”

The Check Out season 1 guests include:

  • Patricia Efiom, Chief Equity Officer
  • Mary Collins, Community Development specialist and former ETHS Community Service Coordinator
  • Dino Robinson, Shorefront founder
  • Lisa Degliantoni, Evanston Made founder
  • Karli Butler, 4th generation Evanstonian and motivational speaker
  • Betsy Bird, Renowned children’s book author and EPL Collections Manager
  • Kim Erwin, Co-Director of the Institute for Healthcare Delivery Design at UIC

Episodes will be released every two weeks and are available at:, and on iTunes and Spotify. Check out the first episode — out now!

Evanston Public Library Has a Lean Budget But Expansive Outreach and Long-Term Plans

by Shawn Iles and Karen Danczak Lyons (as previously published in the Evanston Roundtable)

The work of the Evanston Public Library is far-reaching, multi-dimensional and personal and is best developed through direct input from those we serve. We are dedicated to meeting the diverse needs and expectations of our residents both within the walls of our libraries and in locations around the community where our residents gather – from schools and parks to community centers.

Our services are available 24/7 through the online resources on our website at  We believe everyone deserves the opportunity to improve themselves through the various forms of literacy.

Through an equity lens, we are committed to serving the un- and under-served residents in Evanston, especially in the Fifth, Eighth and Ninth wards.  As we pilot new service models at new locations, we will be realigning our resources. This may mean adjusting service hours at our libraries and redeploying staff to address service equity. With an operating budget significantly leaner than comparable area libraries, EPL meticulously budgets and works diligently to be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars.

As we continue to explore the definition of equity in Evanston, it is our goal to co-create our library services with the residents we seek to serve. By listening, building relationships and engaging in honest, respectful dialogue, we hear from both new voices and long-time patrons. We take feedback seriously and encourage you to connect with us through any means: whether that’s talking directly to library employees, filling out a “comment” form on our website or calling on the phone. We are absolutely committed to experimenting and finding new ways to provide library service throughout Evanston.

There are many ways we work to encourage dialogue. Trustees attend community meetings and reserve time before board meetings to meet with the community.  Our Executive Director and engagement staff visit businesses, library partners and residents throughout the City seeking input and convening community conversations. Residents are invited to complete surveys.

The EPL was founded in 1873. Over the passing years, our City has changed and so has the business of the Library as we continuously evolve to meet new needs. When we opened the doors of the new Main Library 25 years ago, we looked for books and other materials through a card catalogue. Online databases, streaming video, E-books, computers with internet access, free Wi-Fi within the library, and circulating Wi-Fi hotspots to take home – none of these services was available in the past.

Today we bridge the digital divide and provide a safety net for our most at-risk residents, including those who suffer with memory loss, and individuals struggling with homelessness or mental illness. We have a full-time social worker, one of very few libraries providing this service. We provide spaces and programs for our teens to explore the boundaries of their curiosity and talents. We support new parents and help grow the next generation of readers. All of these services and too many to catalogue here are available to everyone each day.

As community needs and issues evolve, we continue to develop and sustain an engaged relationship with the Evanston community so that we can evolve organically along with you. We have not always gotten this right. We are trying new approaches including learning together about Asset Based Community Development: creating new library services by recognizing the existing strengths inherent in our community and letting those strengths guide us towards how we can do better for all of Evanston. We have convened a joint Board/Staff/Resident Racial Equity Task Force to review our library through an equity lens.

We are committed to doing a better job of engaging with you – finding out what you want to share; learning about your aspirations; listening to your observations and uncovering your unmet needs.

These efforts are intended to bring our work into alignment with your vision of library service and constantly affirm that we are working alongside you and contributing to your vision for a more equitable Evanston.

One hallmark of a good library is that the work it does reflects the needs and aspirations of the community. We will keep holding up that mirror. We count on you to let us know what you see there.

Mr. Iles is President of the Evanston Public Library Board of Trustees and Ms. Danczak Lyons is the Executive Director of the Evanston Public Library.

Meet Elacsha Madison: Teen Engagement Coordinator

Elacsha Madison, Teen Engagement CoordinatorWhat’s something about yourself that most people don’t know?

I come from a large family— I am one of eight children. I grew up on the south side of Chicago. My parents worked extremely hard for everything that we had and they taught us the value of a dollar. I learned how to budget money at an early age.

Where’s the most interesting place you’ve ever lived? 

I lived in countries in both Africa and Asia for long periods of time. In both places I learned to truly value life and the people you surround yourself with. I learned to love living on less (i.e., materialistic items) and rely more on just spending time talking to people and telling stories, doing activities together. I lived in rural areas and we had so little, yet I felt so rich, and I was the happiest I had ever been in my life.

I have been on every continent except for Antarctica, which I am planning on visiting. I even went white water rafting in Zimbabwe!

What’s your favorite music?

I love R & B, Pop, and Rap from the 90’s! I also love musicals. I’ve seen The Lion King three times (in London, Chicago and New York), Aladdin twice (in Australia and Chicago), and Hamilton twice (both in Chicago, but the first time opening night)!

Why did you choose to work with teen-agers?

I have been working with teens since I was a teen. I became a director of a girls grant-making program called Sisters Empowering Sisters when I was 18. After getting my Masters in Management, I went back to school and took all of the premed prerequisites so I could attend medical school and be a deaf-friendly OB-GYN.  But I fell in love with the youth I was working with at Mercy [Hospital or what?], and I just couldn’t leave them.

What are some of the things you’ve learned so far from the teens you’ve worked with?

You learn to have the patience of a saint! You learn to be incredibly forgiving and apologetic to your parents at the same time for everything your teenage self may have put them through. You learn so much about yourself as a person.

A lot to building relationships with teens is just being consistent and letting them know that you are there, showing up. Every day is a fresh start regardless of what happened yesterday.

I allow them to talk about everything as long as they’re being respectful. I am always honest with them. Always. Also I have learned to have a great poker face— teens say the wildest things sometimes and they need to know that there is no judgment here and they are welcomed. I know they know that I genuinely care about them and this makes a big difference in the aura/vibes of the Loft.

What’s your idea of a relaxing day? 

When you work with teens, there is no such thing as a relaxing day!





Kanopy Offers Free Streaming Movies with Your Library Card

introducing KanopyKanopy is here!

The Evanston Public Library is now offering free access to Kanopy, an all-movie streaming service. Kanopy brings more than 30,000 of the world’s best films to stream on computers, tablets, and other mobile devices. EPL  cardholders can sign up to start streaming films instantly onto any computer, television, mobile device or platform at the Kanopy website:

The Kanopy collections includes recent indie hits like Ladybird, Moonlight, and The Florida Project; classics like Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, The Great Dictator, and Modern Times as well as Rashomon and The Little Shop of Horrors; and award-winning documentaries like the 2017 Oscar-nominated I Am Not Your Negro and Sundance Film Festival winner Mother of George. Kanopy’s motto is “thoughtful entertainment,” and the films often have social and cultural value or are difficult or impossible to view anywhere else.

Films can be streamed onto any computer, television, mobile device or platform by downloading the Kanopy app for AppleTV, iPhone, and iPad; Android TV and Android; and Fire TV and Fire Tablet. Library users can stream three films per library card per month. Each movie is available for 72 hours (3 days). Many of the titles are unavailable on DVD. The foreign language collection is especially impressive, as are the number of documentaries and Criterion Collection films.

“A Garden of Cinematic Delights” says the The New York Times.

Available films include award-winning documentaries, rare and hard-to-find titles, film festival favorites, indie and classic films, and international films from France, Germany, Japan, Scandinavia, and Italy. The films come from such sources at PBS, the Film Board of Canada, New Day Films, and A24, as well as The Great Courses, Samuel Goldwyn, Music Box Films, and thousands of independent filmmakers.

Kanopy was founded in 2008 by CEO Olivia Humphrey as an educational tool for colleges and universities. Before, only Northwestern students in Evanston were able to use Kanopy as it is available through their academic library system. Now everyone in town with an Evanston Public Library card can benefit.

Pop-Up Stores Step Aside: Introducing the Pop-Up Library

November 6, 2018

Imagine you’re sitting, waiting, bored. Maybe you’re at the Robert Crown Center, waiting for your kid to get out of hockey practice. Maybe you’re in the waiting room at the Erie Family Health Center waiting for your appointment. Perhaps you’re at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, waiting for a show to begin. Waiting can be tough, so wouldn’t it be cool if there were free books available for download at each of those locations? And wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t need your library card to look at them?

Introducing the Pop-Up Libraries of Evanston, IL, brought to you in partnership with Baker and Taylor and the Gerald M. Kline Family Foundation. You’ve heard of pop-up stores, I’m sure, but a library? Absolutely. Evanston Public Library has strategically placed five mobile hotspots filled with free books around the city. If you see one of our signs, you’ll be able to whip out your phone or device and instantly download a book for free of your choice. An array of hot titles have been loaded onto these hotspots, and there’s no waiting. See something you like? You can have it for a week, no charge. Just log-in to the mobile hotspot by going to your wireless settings and tapping on the Pop-Up Library wi-fi connection. Next, go to the website on the poster, and select your book. After you’ve done so a prompt will appear, instructing you to download the book to your phone or smart device so you don’t have to stream it to read it. You don’t need to download an app. Just put the book on your browser and go.

Why are we doing this? Here at the library, we realize that a lot of people have phones and other smart devices but not everyone keeps their library card on them at all times, or even has one that they can use. This is our way of getting ebooks into people’s hands in the places where they often have time to kill. And Evanston is one of only five library systems in the United States trying out these devices.

Interested in giving it a go? Here are the Pop-Up Library locations at this time. Look for the instructional posters at each site:

  • Erie Family Health Center (1285 Hartrey Ave, Evanston, IL 60202)
  • Presence St. Francis Hospital (355 Ridge Ave, Evanston, IL 60202)
  • Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center (1655 Foster St, Evanston, IL 60201)
  • Robert Crown Center (1701 Main St, Evanston, IL 60202)

There’s also a fifth location but it’s a bit of a surprise. Expect that to be announced another day.

La Biblioteca le da la Bienvenida a la Nueva Bibliotecaria Latina / Library Welcomes New Latina Engagement Librarian

La Biblioteca Pública de Evanston se complace en dar la bienvenida a Mariana Bojorquez, la nueva bibliotecaria Latina. Bojorquez, quien se unió a la biblioteca en septiembre, coordinará y trabajará para establecer servicios informativos para la comunidad Latino en Evanston, tanto adentro como afuera de las paredes de la biblioteca, con un énfasis en las necesidades únicas de la creciente población Latino de Evanston. La población Latino de Evanston ha crecido de 9% en 2010 a una estimación de 11% en 2017 y sigue creciendo.

“Queremos que todos se sientan en casa en la biblioteca, y reconocemos que esto puede ser un poco difícil para nuestros residentes Latinos, especialmente aquellos quienes el inglés no es su primer idioma. Mariana es una bibliotecaria Latina bilingüe con mucha creatividad, competencia cultural, entusiasmo, y con habilidades de comunicación excepcionales. Sabemos que ella nos ayudará a continuar avanzando nuestra visión de tener una biblioteca equitativa con programas y servicios relevantes para nuestros residentes Latinos,” dijo Karen Danczak Lyons, Directora de la Biblioteca Pública de Evanston.

Bojorquez, quien se graduó de Dominican University con una Maestría en Bibliotecología y Ciencias de la Información (MLIS) en 2018, nació y fue creada en Los Ángeles, California. Su padre fue un conductor de autobuses para el Distrito Escolar de Los Ángeles y era bilingüe; su madre solo habla español.

Ella afirma, “Tengo el privilegio de estar en una posición única para participar y colaborar con no solo la comunidad Latina en Evanston, pero con mis compañeros de trabajo también, para descubrir y atender las necesidades de los Latinos en Evanston. Espero traer nuevas perspectivas a la biblioteca con mi presencia y a animar a los Latinos a visitar la biblioteca, para que la vean como una institución que puede tener un impacto significante en sus vidas y en las vidas de sus hijos con el desarrollo de programación relevante a sus intereses.”

(Photo by Lynn Trautmann, LTPhoto)


The Evanston Public Library is pleased to welcome Mariana Bojorquez, the Library’s new Latino Engagement Librarian. Bojorquez, who joined the Library in September, will coordinate and work to provide library services for the Evanston Latino community both within and beyond the walls of the library, with an extra emphasis on the needs of Evanston’s growing population of Spanish speaking residents. The Hispanic population of Evanston has grown from 9% in 2010 to an estimate of 11% in 2017.

“We want everyone to feel at home in the Library, and we recognize that this can be more challenging for our Latino residents, especially those for whom English is not their primary language. Mariana is a bilingual Latina librarian with exceptional communication skills, resourcefulness, cultural competence, and enthusiasm.  We know she will help us continue to move forward in providing equitable access and relevant programs and services to our Latino residents,” said Karen Danczak Lyons, EPL Library Director.

Bojorquez, who graduated from Dominican University with a Master’s of Library and Information Science in 2018, was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Her father was a bus driver for the LA school district and is bilingual; her mother speaks Spanish only.

She states, “I’m privileged to be in the position to engage and collaborate with the Spanish-speaking community and our own library staff to uncover and address the unique needs of our Latino community. I hope to bring a new perspective with my presence and to encourage the Latino/a’s of Evanston to see the library as an institution that can have a meaningful impact on their lives and the lives of their children through relevant programming.”

(Photo by Lynn Trautmann, LTPhoto)