WINNETKA – The Winnetka-Northfield Public Library Board of Trustees on July 20 voted unanimously to close the library’s genealogy room, despite protests from residents and people from neighboring communities. While the genealogy collection has been a fixture at the library since 1963, the library will close the room for good on July 30 with plans to relocate the collection outside of the library.
The community of volunteers who have worked diligently in that space for many years was dismayed by the board’s decision to repurpose the 492-square-foot genealogy room into a meeting and programming room.
At the meeting, numerous volunteers and patrons spoke in support of the collection during the public comment period. “You are taking something away from the children and future children of Winnetka,” said Winnetka resident Bernard Hammer.
Winnetka resident Robert Leonard urged the board to delay any decision until after the Winnetka Caucus survey went out in the fall with questions concerning this issue. “I cannot understand why you would fly in the face of Winnetka tradition,” he said. Leonard also asserted that the board appeared to be against senior citizens. He said an email board President Laurie Peterson sent to Trustee Brian Johnson stated that most of the volunteers were older.
And many people urged that the board, at a minimum, keep the collection together. Volunteer Betty Voigt said she met with Matt Rutherford, a curator from Chicago’s Newberry Library, who visited the genealogy room to review the collection. “One of the things that [Mr. Rutherford] said a couple of times was that he thought that the collection should remain intact,” Voigt said.
“I am very distressed to hear what sounds to me like a plan to break up the collection. I guess I am selfish, it is more important to me that it stays together,” Glenview resident Cary Stone-Greenstein said.
At this point the library has not found a new home for the collection. Director Rebecca Wolf is in discussions with the Lake County Genealogy Society, located in Vernon Hills, which she said is potentially interested in the entire collection. Wolf expressed uncertainty as to whether the terms would include a long-term loan of the collection, or whether Lake County would acquire it. The Glenview Public Library has also expressed an interest but does not have room for the entire collection.
For now, the library plans to move the entire Midwest collection upstairs and store the rest of the collection in boxes.