Summer STEM Camp is Underway!

NEW: Openings Available! Register today!

Arcade Game Design Camp, July 29 – August 1. Register.
The Evanston Public Library (EPL), in partnership with District 65, is hosting summer STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) camps for middle school students who are considered underrepresented in STEM education and careers—Black and Latino students, as well as girls. The camps, now underway, are designed to help close the gaps in representation in STEM fields. Students will learn about either the programming and operation of LEGO robotics or design and coding for computer arcade games.

Four one-week sessions are being held at the Library, others at MetaMedia at Foster and at the Y.O.U. building at 1911 Church St. Each free session meets Monday through Thursday, 9 to 11 am, and started on June 17.  About 15 to 20 students will participate per session.

“This summer’s camps will be expanded in number from the pilot program we ran last summer,” says Tyler Works, EPL Teen Librarian.  “We’ll be building on last year’s success—the kids got a lot out of the classes, developing their skills in computational thinking and problem solving.”

Summer Stem CampEvanSTEM recruited rising sixth, seventh, and eighth graders for the camps. EvanSTEM is a public-private partnership housed within District 65 to support STEM education in Evanston. EvanSTEM and the summer camps are funded by a STEM education grant from Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable arm of Motorola Solutions, Inc.

Summer Learning Program Start June 1!

Summer Learning 2019Registration opens June 1 for Evanston Public Library’s Summer Learning Program at any library location or online at Participants of all ages can earn books and other prizes, meet reading goals, and enter the vast world of stories — all for FREE.

After registering, participants get a reading log to track time spent reading, as well as to log bonus activities, to earn regular prizes and raffle entries. A program guide to an array of free summer events is available online, as well as at all library locations. Some programs require advance registration, while others are drop-in events. This year’s program is longer than ever: it extends through August 24.

Individuals of all ages and families are encouraged to register and help grow our city of readers. Literacy includes writing, research, technology, creativity, and problem solving. But it all starts and ends with reading. There are many reasons to spend time at the Library. Using reading to explore a universe of stories is one of the best ways to enjoy your summer.

NEW this year: throughout the City, discover Summer Learning ballot boxes. Adults can enter at select establishments by letting us know what they’re reading or recommending.

The Positive Impact of Summer Reading is Real and Powerful: Our Report. 

The Summer Learning Program highlights the value reading holds within our community.  We thank our program partners: City of Evanston, Evanston/Skokie School District 65, the McGaw YMCA, Y.O.U., Ridgeville Park District, Family Focus, and Garrett-Evanston Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program. These partners are committed to embedding reading as a part of their summer camps and programs.

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!





Children’s Author Events in March!

During the month of March, three award-winning children’s authors will entertain and enlighten children at the Evanston Public Library: Sherri Duskey Rinker, author of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, and Celebrate You! on March 10; Natasha Tarpley, author of I Love My Hair on March 27; and Cleopatra Alexander, author of the Shiny the Sea Star series on March 30.

Celebrate You!Sherri Duskey Rinker is a bestselling picture book author who will present her latest joyful children’s book Celebrate You! Four of her picture books have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, with Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site being featured for at least four years.

Her charming new picture book Celebrate You! recognizes and celebrates all the small but important milestones on the way to growing up, from the first wobbly baby steps to the time when they’re ready to leave the nest. With irresistible illustrations and an inspiring message, Celebrate You! will cheer and encourage readers of any age. Rinker will share her work with Evanston readers on Sunday, March 10, from 3 to 4 pm in the Main Library’s Community Meeting Room. Children of all ages are welcome, although the book is best suited to those aged 3 to 6 (and their caregivers).

I Love My HairA storytime and craft are scheduled with Chicago author Natasha Tarpley, author of I Love My Hair!, on Wednesday, March 27 at 2 to 3:30 pm in the Main Children’s Room at the Main Library. The author will read from her classic children’s book, which just celebrated its twentieth anniversary, and share some of her personal experiences about her hair as she grew up. The reading will be followed by a hands-on craft. This event should appeal especially to young black girls, possibly from kindergarten to third grade.

From a very young age, Tarpley understood that stories were powerful; that they could shape beliefs and change the world. In her writing for children and adults, she strives to diversify mainstream representations of kids and people of color, while emphasizing the fundamental commonalities of all human beings. She is the cofounder, along with her mother, Marlene Tarpley, of Voonderbar! Media, a multicultural children’s media project with a mission to expand depictions of children of color in literature and other media.

Shiny Sea Star

Author Cleopatra Bugelas Alexander will be reading from her Shiny the Sea Star picture book series. Suggested for children ages 3 to 7, these books feature Shiny the Surfing Sea Star who travels to the rivers of the world in search of new friends and adventures. By following Shiny on his adventures, readers will understand that we are all connected by water and can make friends everywhere. The books, which are beautifully illustrated by the author using origami paper cutouts, feature colorful characters including Handy the Octopus, who owns a travel store; Bernice and Bernard, his seagull travel team; Royal, the Bengal Tiger; and Rover, the Whale.

The author will pay tribute to Muriel Schwartz, the longtime Evanston North Branch children’s librarian, by introducing Ms. Muriel, the Dolphin Librarian, who inspires Shiny to continue his adventures. A third-generation Evanstonian, Cleopatra served on the School Board of Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and is an ETHS Distinguished Alumni Award Winner. Books will be available for purchase and signing at this event on Saturday, March 30, at 1:00 pm, in the Barbara Friedberg Room of the Main Library.

All three events will take place at the Main Library, 1703 Orrington Ave. Admission is free and registration is not required.

Getting Things Growing: Winter Seed Sowing

winter seed sowingWhen you look out at a snowy vista, do you think about the seeds that are germinating underground, just waiting for the right conditions to emerge?  Former Illinois Master Gardener Julie Rand, does and she’s offering a hands-on program to get things growing.

“It’s easy to start seeds in recycled containers,” she says. She’s set up a Winter Seed Sowing 90-minute workshop on February 2 at 10:30 am at the Library. “Winter Sowing is a cheap and easy way to start seeds as early as January or February,” she says.

Participants are asked to bring their own clean recycled containers such as milk jugs and soda bottles. (Some will be on hand for those who don’t have them.) The library will supply seeds for Swiss chard, parsley, snapdragons, marigolds, kale, arugula, and other cold hardy plants, to plant in these re-purposed containers.

Julie explains that once planted, the containers are put outside where they act as a small terrarium or green house. The seeds germinate when the conditions are right.

There are both financial and ecological advantages to growing plants from seeds, according to Julie. It costs far less to start seeds than to buy plants, and you get a lot of plants from a single packet of seeds that usually costs about $2. Using recycled containers is a benefit to the environment as the need to buy seedlings in plastic pots is then eliminated.

Julie previously offered this popular workshop last year and participants encouraged her to do it again.  “This will be a lot of fun and offers easy and immediate gratification,” she promises. Everyone’s welcome (although it’s best if participating children are older than 5 or 6), even those who don’t have a garden or a plot of land. Even if you’re a balcony gardener or just want to start some fresh herbs, this is a good way to jump start the growing season.

The program will take place on Saturday, February 2, at 10:30 am to 12:00 pm in the Falcon Room on the third floor of the Main Library.  Please register online or by calling 847-448-8620.

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)

Library Welcomes New Social Worker: Christina Mendez, LCSW

New Library Social Worker
Photo credit: Lynn Trautmann, LTPhoto

Public libraries are community gathering spaces and resource centers, open freely to all. At Evanston Public Library that open welcome is made wider by the presence and skills of a full-time social worker. The Evanston Public Library welcomes Christina Mendez, a licensed clinical social worker, to the library through a partnership with Presence Health. Christina, who started at EPL in September 2018, will provide referrals to community resources, government benefits application assistance, emotional support, and consultation and assessment services to the public, as well as offer training to library staff members. In addition, four social work interns from a variety of Chicago social work schools have placement at EPL.

Says Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons, “For people experiencing homelessness, joblessness, loneliness, or mental illness, the library can be a sanctuary.  For the elderly, new mothers, new immigrants, or teens, it can be a vital connection point. A social worker extends our ability to provide necessary information and resources for everyone.”

Library Social Work: A Growing Phenomenon

Cindy Castro, Manager at Presence Behavioral Health, says that having social work services available at the library, a location where people already gather and feel comfortable, “helps remove the stigma of getting help.”

Social work in libraries is a growing phenomenon as economic disparity grows and disadvantaged individuals increasingly find refuge in the welcoming environment of the public library. The first mental health library worker was in San Francisco. Others now are employed in Baltimore, Denver, Brooklyn, San Jose, and Oak Park. Mendez replaces EPL’s first social worker Justine Janis who moved on in September to start the first social work program at Chicago Public Library.

Says Mendez of her new position: “This is a great environment for social work, Here I feel I can help the community in an innovative way. I am busy every day in this public space where people can talk openly to me about concerns and share snippets of their lives. I hope to continue to foster an environment of openness and availability to everyone who comes here,” says Mendez.

Lyons spearheaded the effort for social worker support in the library in 2013 with limited hours for student social work interns, arranged through Presence Behavioral Health, leading to a full-time position which is funded through the Northwestern University Good Neighbor grant fund as administered by Mayor Hagerty and arranged through a contract with Presence Behavioral Health.

The library sees patrons dealing with a variety of difficult issues, including those who have fallen into poverty. Referrals for tenants’ issues, immigration services, health and wellness matters, hunger, and resources to combat homelessness are all part of the variety of resources a social worker can help provide.  Since February 2017, there have been more than 1000 encounters with Library patrons covering a variety of services including de-escalation, support, case management, referrals, filling out applications, housing support and much more.

Adds Lyons, “We continue to seek new ways to provide equitable access to resources. Evanston patrons come from such a large range of different backgrounds and circumstances. A social worker fits in beautifully among the books, the programs, the technology, and the librarians to provide a new and impactful layer of service.”

Christina Mendez can be reached by phone at 847-448-8659 or by email at  Appointments are strongly recommended.  She is at the Main Library on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am to 6 pm, Wednesdays from 11 am to 7 pm, and Fridays from 10 am to 6 pm. She can be found at the Chicago Avenue/Main Street (CAMS) branch on Mondays from 2 to 8 pm.

We are Nothing: A Film Event with Director (and EPL Staffer) Victor Callaso

Join EPL on Saturday, June 30 at 3 pm, for a screening of We Are Nothing, a film by local filmmaker Victor Collaso. The film follows young adults Alex Logan and Samantha Queen as their universes collide after the divorce of Alex’s parents and his father’s devastating illness. Meanwhile, Samantha holds a huge secret from her own family which is steeped in religious dogma. When their paths meet what follows is a tale of kindred spirits taking on the world, the establishment, and our assumptions. Collaso works in the Circulation Department of Evanston Public Library. We asked him a few questions in advance of the screening of his movie.

How did you develop your interest in filmmaking?
Ever since I was a kid I was interested in car commercials and how the camera works. When I saw Jurassic Park by Steven Spielberg I knew then I wanted to work on films. Also, my mother was a camera woman and worked on films so I would watch her while growing up.
What is one fun fact about yourself? 
I am self-taught filmmaker.
What is your favorite film of all-time?
There are so many films like Jurassic Park, Inception, The Princess Bride, Creed, etc. That is a hard question but if I had to narrow it down to one film  it would have to be Disturbia by D.J Caruso.
Why the title: We are Nothing?
The film is about vulnerability and the path to finding one’s own individuality. I believe most young people around the ages of 18-25 can relate to going through a period of trying to make it in the world and feeling like “nothing”.
How long did it take to create this film?
The film took about 22 days to film.  It took eight months from pre-production to post-production. But the discussion about the project goes back to late 2016.
Where did you find your actors and how did you choose them?
Some of the actors are from Chicago. I put a casting call around the Midwest and we auditioned mid 2017. We used websites like Actors Access and mainly Backstage. None of the actors in the film are SAG.  We (Jeremiah Davis, David Lew Cooper, and I) the executive producers of the film together were looking for actors that could embody the roles and show vulnerability. As a director, I was looking to find actors and actresses that could express the emotions of lost and inner conflicts on the screen.
Any summer movies you can’t wait to see?
Just a few: Incredibles 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Antman and the Wasp.  
What’s your favorite part of working in the library?
My favorite part working at the library is working front desk. Working with customers can be fun and interestingly difficult at the same time. It’s a challenge, but that’s what life is.