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  • Writer's pictureEleka

A New Chapter at Caseyville Public Library District

This August Caseyville Library experienced big changes. Library Director, Ashley Stewart, departs her position at the library as she takes on a new challenge. She will be serving as the campaign strategist for a national organization that helps secure funding for other libraries, assists them with protecting themselves against censorship and book bans, and educates legislators on issues in public, school, and college libraries so they can be granted further protections.

In Ashley’s time as director, Caseyville Library has evolved. As she started in 2017, a tax levy took effect, and the library received pushback. Ashley hired Jackie Keck, who later was promoted to management. Together, Jackie and Ashley worked hard to show the community the library’s value. Along with becoming better connected to the community and its needs, Ashley joined groups like CMC Rotary and the iRead Committee.

Ashley and Jackie fostered partnerships with community organizations, schools, and other libraries to create a network of shared information, assistance, and resources. The library expanded its outreach further into the community, providing community-focused events, programs, and library services.

Together, they made changes to library operations, provided services and resources to vulnerable residents, and established the library as a valued community hub. After applying to grants for technology and collection development, the library acquired new computers and computer equipment. Other collection development grants helped bring more inclusivity to the collection by featuring Latinx authors and Spanish language materials, and later our Social Emotional Learning grant.

The library began a partnership in 2018 with Collinsville High School Co-Op Program to host young workers as they gain work experience. For many students, this is their first job, and they get the chance to get paid while helping out the community and learning about public library operations.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Caseyville Library kept Caseyville informed about virus risks and the importance of vaccination. We started virtual programs to combat loneliness and ran food, toiletry, and supply drives monthly. Because many people lost work in 2020, Caseyville Library and CMC Rotary started the Caseyville Community Garden to help feed the village.

This garden's plan was to produce food to provide for the Caseyville Emergency Food Pantry. In 2021, Caseyville Community Garden expanded, providing hundreds of pounds of produce for families in need. The library added a pollinator garden and hosted storytimes and garden days for the local elementary school students.

Also in 2020, the library hired more staff which allowed for it to expand its digital presence. Having more staff to run the circulation desk and to help with social media and marketing freed up time for Ashley and Jackie to focus on the library's collection development, programs, outreach, new services, and later, the building project.

Ashley formed a partnership with SIUE Department of Social Work. Now, each semester, a bachelors or masters social work student has their practicum at the library where they can learn while helping the community. The library has now hosted four social work students, and another will begin this Fall.

The librarians created programs that featured people across lived experiences and established a collection development policy that holds space for stories about people from a variety of backgrounds.

Learning and sharing ideas with other library professionals, Ashley and Jackie facilitated the library's growth by attending regional, state, and national conferences.

Ashley also began presenting and educating, speaking at conferences and events on Whole Person Librarianship and Social Work in Libraries to help other libraries learn about starting their own social work programs.

In 2021, Caseyville Library entered into an intergovernmental agreement with CUSD10 to trade land that could be used to build a new Caseyville Elementary and preschool in exchange for a new library building, paid utilities, and upkeep. Construction began on the new library and new school in late 2022, and the library is set to open late winter to early spring 2024.

Late this summer, Ashley's success in library advocacy and social work caught the attention of a national organization, and they offered her a position as a campaign strategist. Although we will miss her, we celebrate the impact she created on Caseyville Library. We want to thank Ashley for serving the Caseyville community. Her hard work, innovation, and desire to improve the everyday lives of people through social work, literacy, and inclusion have aided the library's success and will serve her well in her new position.

This August, the Caseyville Public Library District Board of Directors selected Jackie Keck as Library Director. Jackie will lead Caseyville Library into the new building this next year. Their hard work, care, and devotion to the library and the community makes them an excellent choice for the library's new director. Jackie has a history of work in libraries, archives, and museums, and over the years established a strong record of accomplishments, projects, and initiatives at the library. Some of these include establishing an inclusive and strategic collection development policy, transforming the library's Summer Reading Challenge, and establishing the library as a community hub.

In Jackie's time at Caseyville Library, working alongside Ashley, they built strong relationships with community organizations, established a trusted rapport with library users, and solidified the library as a welcoming and accepting refuge. In 2023 Jackie was selected for the Illinois Library Association Conference Planning Committee and the Fundraising Committee. In 2022, Jackie completed the MLIS degree through University of Illinois.

The library staff, board, and our library patrons look forward to Jackie's time as Caseyville Public Library District Director. We are sure Jackie will do excellent work, supporting the library through this transition time, continuing to create an inclusive and welcoming space for staff and library users, and establishing a library that reflects the people of Caseyville and their needs.

Come into the library and give Jackie your congratulations and well-wishes on this new position!


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