Interview with Mary Greska

When Mary Greska was the Library Board Treasurer, she gave us a snapshot of her life and thoughts about the Library in the Fall 2015 edition of The Ford Connection.

In 2017, Mary became Board President, with the big job of educating the community about the need for a renovation referendum. When the referendum passed in March 2018, her task changed to helping shape the nature of the improvements. Renovations are now scheduled to be completed in June, and Mary’s time on the Board ended in April, so it’s the perfect time to check in with her again.

Let’s jump right in with questions about the renovation! For anyone who’s new to the subject, why did the Library need a renovation?  

Our community uses the library much differently since the last renovation in the mid-1990s. Certainly technology advancements have been responsible for many of these changes. Patrons use their own devices to research, connect with others and learn all over the library and we need to be able to comfortably support this with outlets and wireless access everywhere. In addition, students and adults of all ages look to the library for spaces in which to collaborate with others. Our residents, from kids to seniors, use the library as a gathering space to enjoy entertaining, thought-provoking programs and lectures, and sometimes just to connect with others. We knew we needed to retain the charm of our beautiful building and do what we could to the interior to keep our library relevant and vibrant.

Since the $2 million bond passed, we know the town agreed that improvements were needed. What did you learn as you and other trustees talked with your fellow residents?   

Aside from hearing individual ideas for library changes (many of which were incorporated as the plans evolved), most apparent to me was the community’s strong and vocal support of the library. I knew that in the abstract, “people love the library,” but I was continually struck by this sentiment throughout our campaign to educate the community about the need for a renovation. I think this unwavering support is due in part to the strong leadership the library enjoyed for decades under Anne Kozak who retired in 2016, and continues to enjoy with Ted Bodewes who succeeded her as Library Director and continues to fortify the library’s reputation and place in the community. As a Board member, we also know that our staff is second to none as library professionals and leaders. Everyone forms meaningful, friendly relationships with patrons.

Tell us a bit about how the Library decided what work should be done.    

These decisions were made based on input from many people who we heard from throughout the planning process. Ted Bodewes, Library Director, is a strong proponent of collaborative decision-making. We reached out to the community in many ways during this process, both in person and virtually, to hear what residents wanted to see in our renovated library. The library staff provided lots of input borne of real patron experiences. Many of the changes were obvious given the changing needs of the community. Our goal was to use our space as best we can,  and in the most flexible ways possible, to keep it vibrant and useful for years to come.  

Work on the Library began in January and you have made regular visits to observe the work in progress. Give us a peek behind the scenes: were there any surprises?  

I think in any renovation there are surprises, but we have only had small ones, thank goodness! When you expand doorways and make new hallways, you expose walls that haven’t been opened in decades. This was a perfect opportunity to address some minor problems while a wall was open, and prevent larger issues later.

Any plans for celebrating when the work is done?!  

Patrons and staff alike have been so patient throughout this process, but we are all anxious to see the finished product without plastic tarps or detours! The library is having a block party event on Saturday, June 15th, from 3:00-7:00 p.m. to thank the community for its support of the library generally, and particularly during the renovation.  

Although serving as President and working for the renovation was the most demanding part of your time on the Board, you were involved in many other jobs during your four years in office, including Treasurer and Board Liaison to the Foundation. You were also a member of both the Finance Committee, and the Building and Grounds Committee. Could you comment on those roles, so readers have a better understanding of what’s involved with Library stewardship?  

In even just this short period of four years, I felt the long-standing tradition we have here in Board stewardship in everything I participated in. This Board has a history of attracting optimistic and engaged people who, first and foremost, love the library, want to see it continue to be a vibrant community space and understand the responsibility placed upon them by our residents. We are stewards of taxpayer funds and of this community space and are always conscious of this. We are fortunate to work with Ted at our monthly meetings of the full Board and at committee meetings. He makes our oversight role manageable and is always patient and willing to listen to the questions, comments and ideas of Board members. In carrying out our fiduciary responsibilities, we are also appreciative of the invaluable support of our Village staff, particularly Grace Turi, our Village Finance Director. I also enjoyed seeing how the related library organizations work to contribute to the library experience. The members of the Thomas Ford Library Foundation and of the Western Springs Library Friends are all people who engage in promoting the library’s mission and in a lot of hard work to tirelessly support our library in many ways.

Finally, could we get an update on you, yourself? Tell us a little about your family, career, hobbies, and vacation plans.  

I am still enjoying my position as an elementary school librarian in Elmhurst and excited about how my position continues to change to incorporate makerspace and STEM activities. I am newly involved in my district’s educational foundation and look forward to what that may bring.  My husband, Steve, and I visit our daughter in New York City as often as we can, along with our son, if his work schedule permits. Once the school year is over, my daughter and I plan to visit Scotland and Portugal. I do love summers!

Any parting words?  

I am honored and thrilled to have had a front row seat to experience this exciting time in the life of our village’s library!

“The Ford Member Connection” spotlights Western Springs residents with interesting stories and relationships to the Library. Please let us know whom you’d like to read about.