A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Lynn Frank

LynnFrank1The next time you walk through the doors or check out a book at the Crown Point Community Library, think of Lynn Frank. Although Frank retired from her position as Director last fall, the effects of her stewardship will be enjoyed by many generations to come. It was under her leadership and direction that the new facility at 122 North Main Street in downtown Crown Point became a reality in October, 2012.

Frank started working at the Crown Point Community Library in 1988 as a substitute librarian. While she was there, she worked her way up to Head of Reference. During this time, she also looked to pursue a Masters in Library Science.

“It was a lot to manage,” says Frank. “I was working full time and attending school full time. There were many days I would leave early in the morning and not return home until 11:00 that night.” Frank also had to adjust to returning to the classroom. “Not only had it been some time since I had been in school, but I had never had computers!” laughs Frank. “Still, I had some advantages over my younger colleagues. I had more practical work experience and I felt this helped me to have more direction and focus.” Frank’s hard work paid off with her completing her degree from Dominican University.

Even before the Crown Point Community Library built their new state-of-the-art facility, Frank gained experience from her involvement in the renovations of both the Crown Point and Winfield locations. The Winfield branch has a nautical theme so their renovation included a life size boat inside the library. While Crown Point needed a new facility at the time, the decision was to make due with renovations to the existing facility because of the economy.

While steps had been taken to postpone the decision, a number of factors arose that made building the new facility critical. “Our old facility had been too small for the size of collection we needed for some time. In 2000, our library had 100,000 materials to loan. In comparison, other libraries serving the same size of population would have 250,000 – 300,000 materials in their collection,” explains Frank.

Besides the size of the collection, new standards were being introduced that would measure libraries based on factors such as how many programs they offered, how many computers they had and the speed of their wireless system. The old facility would not have met these new standards and there was the risk that the library might not receive grant funding. In addition, there were concerns as to whether the old facility would still maintain the approval of the State Library Association. It was also unclear at the time how a change to the property tax allocation would affect the future of the library.

LynnFrank2Building the new facility allowed the opportunity to introduce some new features.

“We had every staff member put together a wish list. This was actually difficult for some as they had been denied changes for so long,” explains Frank. “From these lists and from visits to other libraries, changes like the drive thru drop off and self-check out were added.”

Some changes were introduced ahead of time in the old facility to help get patrons adjusted to the new changes that were coming. For example, the “will call” shelf was made available to patrons whereas before only librarians had access. Also, a self-check out station and a new IT person were introduced before the move.

Just like the building itself, the function of a library has changed as well.

“Libraries evolve,” says Frank. “It used to be that you could check out a painting for your living room. Libraries used to carry LP records. There was even a time when librarians would tell you what to read. The definition of what a library is changes. We think of libraries today more as community centers.”

In keeping a balance to both its materials and equipment, Frank goes on to explain, “You also have to keep in mind that your collection is to be used by everyone. Not everyone in the community is affluent enough to afford the latest technologies. While many may have a home computer, there are also many who do not. They need computers in the library to communicate with friends and to find work. It is difficult to please and meet the needs of 40,000 people, but you do the best you can.”

“Seeing the new building go up was the most gratifying experience,” says Frank. “I loved moving day and watching things come through the door and take their place on the shelves. Of course, I always see that there is so much more to do. This made retiring difficult,” Frank adds with a laugh.

Still. Frank plans to keep herself busy with lots of traveling. Both of her parents are still living and she has many grandkids to see. There are trips planned to see family in both Illinois and Florida. Frank also enjoys sewing and is finishing her first quilt. And given her past career, she just may end up reading a good book!