“The public library is not a passive institution,” says Carolyn Anthony, “but an active agent in the community.” Since her time at URI, Anthony has demonstrated this clearly. She is currently director of Skokie Public Library in Skokie, Ill., serving a suburban community of 64,784 people with a library collection of 568,685 books, periodicals, and media materials.
Under her leadership, Skokie Public Library was one of five libraries in the nation awarded a National Medal of Honor by the Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2008. Anthony has seen Skokie’s circulation increase by 1.5 million in the last 25 years. She has also shepherded special projects to fruition, such as the creation of a Digital Media Lab in 2009 providing high-end computers, musical equipment, and recording apparatus to Skokie’s patrons.
“I see the public library as the crossroads of lifelong learning in the community,” she says, “and librarians as essential partners in community development. Public libraries can bring resources to bear on local concerns such as economic development and immigrant integration and host civic discussion forums for informed and reasoned consideration of issues.”
In Skokie, these issues often revolve around the diversity of the population. When the USA PATRIOT Act was hotly debated, Anthony spoke out about its implications and worked to revise it.
“Skokie has more than 2,000 people from Iraq and at least 1,000 from Iran and other countries who might be subjected to investigation,” she explains. “The privacy of library records is an important professional value.” Her efforts earned her a nod from Time magazine in 2003; the same year she was declared Librarian of the Year by the Illinois Library Association.
“A librarian is an educated, aware, and engaged individual who networks with people and employs resources to help define and resolve issues in the local or wider community,” says Anthony, whose activism and professional commitment continue to make her a leader in public librarianship.
—Bethany Vaccaro ’06