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City Council honors EPL’s Karen Danczak Lyons

Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Evanston Public Library. City Council honored EPL’s executive director Karen Danczak Lyons during Monday’s meeting. Danczak Lyons will retire Friday after 10 years of service.

Interim City Manager Kelley Gandurski led City Council in celebrating Karen Danczak Lyons on Monday before her retirement from the post of Evanston Public Library’s executive director. Danczak Lyons wants to depart on Friday.

“Karen has done so much to expand services and has really brought the library to the people,” Gandurski said.

Leading EPL for a decade, Danczak Lyons has pushed the library to implement programs like Wi-Fi hotspots and job-search tech kits, as well as expanded virtual programming to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic.

During her tenure, EPL opened a branch in the Robert Crown Community Center with an emphasis on bilingual and bicultural resources. Staff at the new branch speak English and Spanish.

“We’re no longer a passive library waiting for you to come and join us in the library … We really have worked consistently and intentionally to center our community members,” Danczak Lyons said at Monday’s meeting.

Mayor Daniel Biss presented Danczak Lyons with a plaque commemorating their service.

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) thanked Danczak Lyons on behalf of 2nd Ward residents for their work expanding library services beyond traditional boundaries.

Braithwaite specifically highlighted EPL’s partnership with the city’s Reparations Committee. As Danczak Lyons noted, EPL provided research to help residents meet the Restorative Housing Program’s application requirements.

“The work that you provided to our community during reparations will never be forgotten,” Braithwaite said.

Braithwaite also thanked Danczak Lyons for helping foster a love of reading in children. He said his son started going to the library at a young age and continues to read — something he said he owes to EPL staff.

During her remarks thanking city staff, Danczak Lyons pushed the city to increase EPL funding.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job this last week if I didn’t also remind you that an investment in the Evanston Public Library is an investment in our residents,” she said. “Our budget has been held flat.”

While Danczak Lyons acknowledged finding additional funding is difficult because the library’s primary source is property taxes, she said every dollar invested in EPL goes back to Evanston residents.

Danczak Lyons said it has been a privilege to serve Evanston alongside EPL employees.

“It’s been the love of my life,” she said.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @JorjaSiemons

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