During Karen Danczak Lyon’s decade as executive director, the Evanston Public Library opened one new branch and closed two others.
Jonah Meadows , Patch Staff
EVANSTON, IL — The trustees appointed to oversee the Evanston Public Library plan to launch a nationwide search for a new chief executive in light of the impending resignation of Executive Director Karen Danczak Lyons.
Danczak Lyons has spent the last decade in charge of the city’s library system. During that time, the library “adopted a new vision and business model,” according to a release announcing her retirement, effective June 17.
The library’s new vision has included hiring a social worker, lending out WiFi hotspots and job search kits and expanding online services, according to the release.
EPL has also created new positions designed to engage underrepresented communities, adopted an equity statement and transitioning policy and is “evaluating options” for a 5th Ward branch.
“Our biggest asset in this community is our talented, passionate community members, from our patrons, to our partners, volunteers, donors, and especially our staff,” Danczak Lyons said in the release. “It has truly been an honor to work alongside you to meet the ever-changing needs of our residents.”
During her time leading the library, it opened a new branch at the Robert Crown Community Center, where programming is designed to serve Spanish-speaking and underserved residents.
The library also closed two branches — the North Branch at 2026 Central St. and the South Branch at 900 Chicago Ave. — after neither reopened their doors to the public after closing amid the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Library officials have been concentrated on applying an equity lens to their decision-making in recent years, according to the release.
Interim City Manager Kelley Gandurski said Danczak Lyons has had a lasting effect on the Evanston community since she was hired in 2012.
“Under Karen’s leadership, library services have expanded far beyond the buildings’ walls, connecting residents of all ages and demographics with books, resources, employment opportunities, technology, skills, and even a better understanding and appreciation for one another,” Gandurski said. “I thank Karen for her outstanding service and wish her the very best in the future.”
The Evanston Public Library is managed by a board composed of trustees appointed by the mayor. Its board draws up its budget and manages the hiring of its executive director, but the Evanston City Council is ultimately responsible for paying its bills.
“We thank Karen for her more than 10 years of service to the Library and the Evanston community,” Tracy Fulce, president of the library board, said in the release. “[W]e are grateful for an extraordinary staff who will lead us into the future.”
Related: ‘Racist’ Flag Display Prompts Library To Issue Apology After-Hours Self-Service Launches At Robert Crown Library Branch Trustees Vote On Closure Of 2 Evanston Public Library Branches New Robert Crown Center Library Branch Opens To Public
According to library representatives, trustees will pick an interim director to take over for Danczak Lyons next month before hiring consultants to identify candidates to become her permanent successor.
The outgoing director also said she was proud of efforts to strengthen partnerships around the Evanston community, hold more community listening sessions and employ an asset-based community development model.
“I believe that part of being a leader is knowing when to leave and make space for what’s next,” Danczak Lyons said. “I am proud of the work we have accomplished together under my leadership, and I want to allow for a smooth transition to ensure our important work continues.”
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