Posted: Thursday, February 22

Planning an outing for the whole family isn’t easy for Liz Wang. image of declan and aiden

“We tend to be home a lot; it’s hard to do community outings,” said the Northbrook mother of three young children. “Story Hour [at the library] doesn’t really work. We try to attend as as family, but it’s tough.”

Aiden, her second grade son, has autism and needs special tools to feel comfortable and focus.

Fortunately, last March, when the library began organizing Accessibility Hour and other sensory-friendly family events, the Wangs immediately noticed that Aiden was participating and enjoying his time.

During Accessibility Hour, families with special needs are invited to visit the library one hour before the regular opening to tour the building, check out materials, and participate in sensory-friendly activities.

“It’s so nice to have Accessibility Hour and that we could come as a family, because otherwise there’s so much pressure,” Liz said. “It’s just nice that it’s specifically for [Aiden]. It’s nice to have that time. He likes to run around … I didn’t feel as guilty and he felt comfortable, too, and had a sense of being able to fit in.”

During one sensory-friendly event, the library had set up a workstation including beans in containers.

“[Aiden] loved that,” she said. “He brought up the beans a week later. It’s nice to know that he has a positive experience here.”

Like Liz, the Keddy family says the accessibility programs have brought about meaningful experiences and quality bonding time.

“I especially love that it is our local library offering these programs,” Stephanie said. “I grew up reading and studying in libraries.  I love that the library is growing and evolving to offer programs that encompass its special needs patrons.”

Creating programs that enable families to use the library and participate in activities together was the impetus behind Accessibility Hour, said Sarah Rustman, School and Special Services Librarian.

“So much of the week for families consists of children in all kinds of activities or therapies that don't involve parent participation,” Sarah said. “I wanted Accessibility Hour to bridge that gap and provide a program that creates memories for the whole family. I get to see children with special needs, siblings, and parents all having new experiences together; whether it be exploring the library, using a sensory box, or participating in a program and that warms my heart each and every time.”

Stephanie and Tom’s seven-year-old son Declan has a cochlear implant and uses a wheelchair. The accessibility programs provides her family with “wonderful community-based events that are geared specifically to special needs kids.”

“These type of programs are very hard to find,” said Stephanie, who also has a four-year-old daughter. “We can come together as a family to learn and have fun in a calm, relaxed environment free from judgment.”

As parents of a child with special needs, it’s important to help Declan meet new challenges and “not put limits,” Tom said.

Declan and his family particularly enjoy Sensory Storytimes and Special Needs Yoga.

“And as a result of that he takes yoga classes now because he was so good in that [Special Needs Yoga] class,” Tom said.

The library offers additional resources for families with special needs, from its special needs collection to discovery skills kits to electronic Playaway launchpads. For more information about these resources, please reach out to Sarah at or 847-272-4192.  

Photo caption: Declan (left), 7, and Aiden (right), 7, both of Northbrook, spend time enjoying sensory-friendly box materials.  


Posted: Wednesday, February 21

Makers represent a diverse range of specialties. Whether you enjoy crocheting or producing 3D designs, your imagination and passion for creating things is what defines you as a maker.

As construction of the Collaboratory, the library’s new makerspace, is on track to be completed in mid-March, makers from the community have expressed their enthusiasm for the new space and all its machines and tools (ranging from high-tech to low-tech to no-tech).

Meet Debbie, Rita, and Dave, three local makers eager to expand their repertoire.


Debbie Reederimage of debbie

Debbie is a retired librarian with a career spanning nearly 40 years in academic and corporate libraries. She loves to travel, read, bake and, of course, craft. Debbie is a regular participant of the library’s crafting programs and is active with other local crafting groups such as the Northbrook Community Club. Debbie is excited to try out all the new machines. “Where else would I get a chance to do that but here?,” she said. “It’s an opportunity I would not have otherwise. I want to see what I could do with it.”



image of dave

Dave Schwartzberg

Dave has a professional background in accounting. Around the Internet boom era in the late 90s, he took night classes to change careers and survived the dot-com bubble. Today, he works as a mobile data protection specialist. Dave’s interest in technology stems from his childhood and being influenced by his father, who was an aerospace engineer. As a maker, Dave is interested a range of activities, including cryptography, coding and soldering. Once the Collaboratory opens, Dave looks forward to “get my kids out of my house to meet with other people who have similar interests.”




image of rita

Rita Tao

Around the time Rita retired from the pharmaceutical industry about five years ago, a colleague taught her how to craft with beads. Relatedly, Rita’s mother was a skilled crafter, particularly with beading and crocheting. After her mother passed away, “I thought, ‘I should probably pick up some of that,’” she said. “I’m interested in all kinds of crafting work. Crafts keep me busy. During class reunions, I give away (my finished crafts) to friends.”


Posted: Thursday, February 15

Spring will be an exciting season for the Northbrook Public Library. In addition to wrapping up construction on the new Collaboratory and training staff on the space’s equipment, the library will be rolling out a brand new online catalog and updating checkout policies.

The changes, which take effect on Tuesday, April 17, will make using the library more library more convenient for patrons, according to Executive Director Kate Hall.

“We are updating our circulation policies to tie in with our new catalog to provide patrons with the best user experience,” said Hall. “Our hope is that by streamlining the policies and making them easier for people to remember, combined with the new catalog, people will have a much easier time finding and checking out the materials they are interested in.”

The library’s current catalog will be offline between Saturday, April 14 and Monday, April 16 as the new catalog is set up. During this time, patrons will be able to check out materials, but are encouraged to:

  • Bring your library card to the library, as staff may not be able to check out materials to you or access your account

  • Call the library to confirm that an item is on the shelf

  • Place holds on items before the transition period

Due dates for some items may also be extended during the transition period.

The new online catalog will launch on Tuesday, April 17. In addition to a faster, better browsing experience, the new catalog offers automatic renewals for eligible items, which will autorenew up to 2 times. Patrons will also be able to download their reading history and pick up items at any of the 24 libraries within the Northbrook Public Library’s consortium with the new catalog.

“The new catalog will feature a cleaner look and will provide more option­­­s for people to browse our collection,” said Hall. “With over 340,000 items in our collection, it can be challenging for people to browse online, but the new catalog will help people find topics that are of interest in addition to easily finding specific titles they are looking for.”

The new checkout policies will also take effect April 17. The following updates were approved at the Board of Trustees’ January meeting:

  • Overdue fines will lower to $.10 per day for all items (excluding DVDs and Blu-rays, which remain $1.00/day)

  • Maximum fine per item will lower to $2.00

  • Patrons may now check out as many items as they choose

  • Loan periods have been extended to three weeks for almost all items. New and Lucky Day feature films can be checked out for one week.

  • Almost all items will automatically renew up to three times.

While the library will be bustling with new and exciting updates in March and April, Hall is confident that patrons’ experience will continue to be positive.

“Patrons can always expect top notch customer service from our staff when they visit or call. During the changes to the catalog, they will still receive that same level of service and will now see it extend to our new catalog,” she said. “And while we have tried to plan for every eventuality in changing to a new catalog, we appreciate patrons patience in the event that any technology hiccups do occur.”  

Patrons are encouraged to visit the library’s website for more information about these new changes, including logging into their library account, placing a hold, and paying fines, in April. The library will also hold drop-in help sessions in April for anyone wanting additional assistance with the new catalog.

Posted: Friday, January 26

Amy Watia Brennan and Allison Fradkin may have different writing backgrounds and sensibilities, but when they show up to a Northbrook Writes class, they’re fellow students honing the craft of writing.

At Northbrook Writes, a series of free lectures and workshops led by acclaimed authors,  participants delve deep into the various pillars of good writing: setting the scene, revising your manuscript, modulating a story’s tension, escalating suspense, developing characters, and much more. But aside from learning how to improve their writing, participants find support and kinship.

About the Writers

Amy Watia Brennan


Amy, a University of Michigan graduate and librarian, is working on her middle-grade fiction novel and hopes to finish by spring. She’s currently a stay-at-home mother with three young children who moved to Northbrook over the summer. Amy learned about Northbrook Writes from a poster in the library lobby and has been a regular attendee ever since. 


Allison Fradkin


Allison has been writing professionally for eleven years. She’s a Dramatist for Special Gifts Theatre (“although that's more of a joy than a job,” says Allison), adapting scripts to showcase the strengths and talents of actors of all ages and abilities. Allison is also the Literary Coordinator for Pride Films & Plays. She recently completed a feminist homage to The Golden Girls called Say Cheesecake! The Musical about Girls of a Golden Age.


On Finding Community

Amy: Writing is a lonely process; Just sitting by yourself in front of a computer. So to be in a room with others who are doing this and hearing their comments, it makes it more collaborative even though in the end you’re doing it on your own. It fosters a sense of community and the awareness that there are others out there like me.

[Coincidentally, after running into each other at Northbrook Writes, Amy and Tracy Slutzky (read about her in the next installation of Meet the Writers!) learned their daughters were in the Northbrook Park District’s musical production of Annie together and became fast friends.]

Allison: I'm shy about sharing my writing in a group setting, but I love listening to and learning from other writers, especially when they're discussing the creative process, characterization, point of view, research, and plotting.


On Valuable Tips and ‘Useful Pearls’

Amy: I’m impressed by the caliber of the speakers and how well-attended [Northbrook Writes] is. Overall, as someone who’s interested in learning all aspects of this, it’s well-rounded. There’s something for everybody. 

Allison: As a reading material girl, my favorite genres are historical fiction and young adult fiction, so the workshops on those topics have been considerably constructive. I have an idea for a retro coming-of-age novel, and being a part of the Northbrook Writes group has translated my ambition to write it into an intention to do so. 


Upcoming Workshops

February 17: we will host national bestselling author Bret Nicholaus as he discusses The 7 Keys to Writing the Perfect Query Letter to make a strong impression on agents and publishers. Reserve a spot to guarantee entry.

February 24: Rebecca Makkai, author of The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House, will guide writers on the emotional process of Revising Your Manuscript. Reserve a spot to guarantee entry.

Posted: Wednesday, January 17

Since late August, the Northbrook Public Library has been receiving clerical help from a couple student workers.

James Pujals, or JC, and Karin McDonald are students with the Northern Suburban Special Education District (NSSED), a special education cooperative that provides programs, services, coaching, and consultation to enable students become independent and successful.

Over the course of the semester, Stephanie Galindez, an employment specialist for NSSED, has seen a lot of growth and independence in JC, 18, and Karin, 17, as they worked and interacted with staff. Youth Services Librarian Sarah Rustman often collaborated with JC and Karin.

“Karin's smile lights up a room and JC's jokes always had me laughing,” Sarah said. “I looked forward to every morning I got to see them and I really will miss them.”

The NSSED has partnered with the library for more than 15 years, Stephanie said. Part of her job is to train students in community-based jobs to help the students obtain paid employment. NSSED and the library work together to adapt the students’ work environment to train and empower them to succeed in their future employment.

“The work that the students do while job training in the community, specifically the library, teaches them assorted job skills that can be transferred to different work environments,” Stephanie said. “Volunteering at the library also can further develop the students' soft skills, and communication skills with staff and patrons.”

Likewise, the library gains many valuable benefits from working with NSSED students, Sarah said.

“We are lucky enough to get to work with NSSED students of all abilities and that makes the library a better place for everyone,” Sarah said. “NSSED has a number of employment placement locations where students go, and I feel honored that we get to be one of them. We gain needed assistance on tasks and they gain valuable work experience which is a great exchange.”

The library thanks JC and Karin for a job well done this semester, and thanks the NSSED for their dedication.

MEET KARIN & JCimage of karin

What is your favorite part of volunteering at the library?

Karin: Stamping RAILS sheets.

JC: Stamping RAILS sheets.


What brings you to the library when you’re not volunteering?Image of JC

Karin: I like reading.

JC: To spend time with my family. I used to come a lot with my mom.


What are you currently reading, watching or listening to?

Karin: I listen to Keith Urban.

JC: I am watching football, Castle and Friends.


Fun fact about yourself?

Karin: I like to dance.

JC: I can sing, dance, and play the guitar.


Posted: Friday, January 12

One by one, young patrons trickled into the room on a late afternoon, straight from the brutal post-Christmas cold.

“I’m here for dungeoneering,” announced a boy who rushed in, still bundled up in his winter coat.

Intro to Dungeoneering Class“You’re in the right place,” replied Rachel Kaplan, a programming assistant who led the Intro to Dungeoneering course on January 3.

Nine young dungeoneers gathered around a table in the YS Activity Room to start a fantasy adventure featuring gnomes, hermit elf monks, and strategic power moves.

Dungeons and Dragons, the group was about to learn, is “based on the D20 die,” Rachel told the group. “This is not a Game of Life, Monopoly kind of die.”  

The library’s Intro to Dungeoneering class offers a supportive and collaborative space for dungeoneers—both novices and seasoned players—to learn and cultivate an interactive fandom.

“Dungeons & Dragons is fun because although there are rules and tropes, you can do just about anything. With a fun Dungeon Master, each adventure is a collaborative storytelling method. It's worthwhile because it brings people together into a common fantasy where anyone can be an elf wizard or a half-orc monk.” Rachel said. “But it's not just fun magic and hanging out with people. D&D adventures often require players to strategize and think creatively to solve puzzles or defeat a monster.”

To the uninitiated, Dungeons & Dragons may seem too riddled with labyrinthine elements, but the young attendees picked up the game in no time.

Kevin Westmoor and Daniel Westcott, both 10, said they enjoyed learning the basics of dungeoneering and would recommend the tabletop game to their friends.

“I really like that it’s its own story and it’s social,” Kevin said. “There are rules and guidelines but at the same time there’s no limit.” dungeoneers

By the time the class was over, Abhimanyu Khurana, 10, was planning to “buy the hard copy and play with my cousins.”

“My older cousins used to play it but I didn’t really get it at the time,” Abhimanyu said. “But now, it seems pretty fun to me.”

For adults, the library offers monthly Tabletop Gaming meetups.

Rachel, who plans to schedule more dungeoneering classes this year, came up with the idea of running a D&D program not long after she took charge of the department’s Science Explorers and Create Club.

“I love the game and know that it's hard to get into if you don't have someone to teach you show how it works, and I wanted to be that person for someone else,” she said.

In the meantime, Rachel encourages those who like fantasy and cooperative games to think about taking up the hobby, “as well as those who are looking for a community (in person and online) with a good sense of humor that cares about quality storytelling.”

Posted: Friday, December 29

In our Business Matters series, we explore the many ways the library can help boost your business and your professional profile.

Growing and running a business is hard work, but at the library, we strive to make it easier by connecting you with mentors and teaching you how to hire top talent.

New! Small Business Mentoring Service

SCORE Mentoring ServiceGet invaluable business advice from experienced professionals...for free! The library is launching a new one-on-one mentoring service for local small businesses and entrepreneurs in collaboration with SCORE, a not-for-profit small business mentoring organization with more than 320 chapters and 11,000 volunteer mentors nationwide. Through this new mentoring service, SCORE volunteers --current and retired business owners and executives--offer local small business owners and entrepreneurs this free and confidential service to help them start and grow their business.

Beginning January 10, mentoring is available on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 6:30-8:30pm. You can sign up for an appointment online at There are two, one-hour time slots per evening: one at 6:30pm and one at 7:30pm.

Case Study: Meet Tanner Morris, Recruiter

Tanner Morris ProfileFor Tanner Morris, the Northbrook Public Library offers a constructive space to focus on his business.

“I regularly use the library for research and for the study rooms,” he said.

As a technical recruiter for IBM, Tanner also relies on the library’s resources to conduct in-depth research on hiring trends and job market conditions. He’s spent the last five years studying the hiring process by studying resumes, interview best practices, and working with more than a hundred hiring managers to gain their insights.

“[His work involves] consulting them on the best practices on hiring top talent, including how to write a more effective job description and how to interview candidates,” he said.

Even as Tanner uses library resources for his work, he’s also been a contributor to library patrons. In March of 2017, he taught a course on climbing the corporate ladder. More recently in November of 2017, he taught job-seeking patrons how to successfully navigate interviews by learning how to prepare for them and engage with interviewers.

On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, Tanner will offer his expertise for small business owners in Hiring Top Talent for Your Business. If your company plans to hire new employees this year, save the date for Tanner's discussion!


Posted: Thursday, December 28

Susan Merdinger has been dazzling Northbrook Public Library patrons with her piano performances since 2008. susan merdinger

The highly acclaimed pianist has performed as a soloist in prestigious concert halls throughout the U.S., Europe, and Canada, winning honors and earning accolades from the music press along the way.

Even as she maintains a hectic performance schedule recording and traveling—she’s performed at Carnegie Recital Hall, The Chicago Symphony Center, Ravinia’s Bennett Gordon Hall, and Scotland’s National Orchestra Center, just to name a few—Merdinger commits her talent and time for the library.

“What keeps me coming back is the audience,” said the Steinway artist. “Everyone is receptive, warm, appreciative and attentive. That’s what kept me coming back to the library.”

On Sunday, January 14, Susan will grace the library’s Auditorium stage at 3:00pm to present an All-Beethoven Piano and Violin Sonata program with Switzerland-based American violinist, Michaela Paetsch, whom Susan met when they were students at the Yale School of Music.

“(Michaela) is just really marvelous and so full of energy,” Susan said. “Our energy really matches each other.”

As a musician, Susan aims to deliver classic crowd pleasers as well as introduce a diverse repertoire to her audience.

“I like to give the audience a chance to hear the complete works of specific composers,” she said. “I also think the audience likes to have a representative sampling of a diverse range of programming.”

According to Susan, the library’s effort over the years to enhance the live music experience for artists and patrons alike allows for different ensembles and musical experimentation to take the stage.

I witnessed the transformation; the whole gut renovation [which completed in 2015]. Now that the library has received a generous loan of the Steinway piano, the venue is just beautiful. (The audience) really like the acoustics, the clarity.”

Susan hopes more patrons will take advantage of the library’s amenities in the new year.
“The venue is so lovely. You don’t have to drive downtown, sit in traffic, pay for parking, pay whopping prices for tickets to see a world-class performance,” she said.” It’s really an important and wonderful community service the library provides by having all these wonderful educational and entertaining programming.”

Posted: Thursday, December 14

In recognition of Winter Reading: Your Family Story, Northbrook resident Judy Armgardt shared her personal story about her family’s connection with the Northbrook Public Library through her childhood and adulthood.

Judy Armgardt ProfileJudy Armgardt was 10 years old when she stumbled upon several books on divorce in her mother’s car. 

“We were on the way to the library (the original site at the corner of Shermer and Church) with my mom and I opened the glove compartment and saw all these books about divorce. … It started the discussion.” 

Her mother, Maudine Bowman, had just moved to Northbrook with her husband and four young children from the St. Louis area. The moment of discovering the books and realizing that her parents were in the process of splitting forever shaped Judy’s connection to the Northbrook Public Library.  The experience left a profound impression on Judy: “Libraries; They’re there for you when you least expect it.” 

“It’s weird that that’s my first memory of this library. To me, it’s a connection I had with the library. It started a discussion.”

Judy remembers the lingering anguish she felt as a child sitting at the library “wondering about what’s going to happen.”  As life went on, Judy, a Glenbrook North High graduate, and her family adjusted well in Northbrook and kept visiting the library. 

“This library (the current site at Cedar and Cherry) opened shortly after that, and I visited throughout my middle school and high school years,” said Judy. “I remember going from the old, little library to coming here and thinking ‘This is the greatest library in the world,’ and it is.”

Judy, registered dietician, would go on to marry Charles Armgardt, a Glenbrook South High graduate. They met as teens working at a now-defunct local grocery store, The National. Her mother-in-law Mamie, coincidentally, worked at Northbrook Public Library during the mid 1970s.

The couple, who have two daughters—one has a doctorate in pharmacy and the other is working on her MBA—lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the past 30 years and moved back to Northbrook in January 2016.  Her husband, a lawyer, did remote work during the first year back and spent most of his working hours at the library. 

“I felt like we lived (at the library) the first year back,” she quipped. 

At the same time, the couple was planning an extensive European vacation soon after the move, taking advantage of the library’s travel section. 

“Our dining room table was covered with your travel books,” said Judy.

In March, the couple embarked on their three-month European adventure, touring more than a dozen major cities throughout the continent, including Madrid, Paris, London, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, and Dublin. 

They settled back to their normal lives in Northbrook in June and began attending events at the library such as the live music shows. 

“Every month, there’s something amazing. We’re so lucky to come back here and have this library,” she said. 

Do you have a personal connection with the Northbrook Public Library you’d like to share? Has the library made a meaningful difference in f your life? Please share your story with us by emailing

Posted: Monday, December 11

Need something to keep the kids occupied during winter break? We can help!

Family STEM Explorers PhotoMake Something

All ages are invited to create something new at Crafternoon on Thursday, December 28!

Jump into STEAM

At Games Outside the Box on Tuesday, January 2 at 2:30pm, kids of all ages can unleash their inner geek by playing with our tech toys. Children age 2-6 can explore science, engineering, and math concepts at Little Explorers on Wednesday, January 3 at 10:30am.

Read a Good Book

There are lots of great books in Youth Services! In addition to earning rewards for reading when you sign up for Winter Reading, you can also read along with Tumblebooks or check out an eBook on Hoopla.

Leap! Movie Poster Watch a Family Movie

We're showing Leap! on Saturday, December 30 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm. We're also hosting a sensory-friendly screening of Despicable Me 3 on Thursday, January 4 at 1:00pm.

Try Our Tech

Winter break is a great time to try using an Arduino or MaKey MaKey kit! Stop by the Youth Services desk to check them out.



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