Jean Day in the Youth Services area at the Oak Lawn Public Library in Oak Lawn, Illinois, Monday, January 14, 2013. Day is retiring at end of Feb. after 25 years as youth services librarian. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 28, 2013 6:04AM
The oldest of five children, Jean Day would be called on to baby-sit her younger siblings or neighborhood children.
To keep her charges entertained, Day would make sure to bring along a supply of books.
Now, Day is getting ready to close a chapter of her life that’s been all about books.
At the end of February, she’s scheduled to retire as head of the youth services department at the Oak Lawn Public Library, where she’s worked for 25 years. The Evergreen Park resident also spent 10 years supervising the youth services department at the Matteson library.
Growing up in Chicago, Day would accompany her mom to the neighborhood library, where a lifelong love of books began.
“She introduced us to the joy of reading at a very young age,” Day said.
Day majored in English and thought she wanted to be a teacher. After college, she joined Volunteers in Service to America — now AmeriCorps VISTA — and taught school in Gary. She later studied library science and got a job working at the state library in Springfield, where she met her husband, Dennis. He retired last year as vice president of support services at Little Company of Mary Hospital.
The couple’s son, Patrick, is a city planner in Binghamton, N.Y., and their daughter, Jennifer, helps oversee the website for General Mills’ Betty Crocker brand.
While what libraries offer patrons has changed and grown during Day’s 35-year career, one thing has remained the same, she said.
“There is the constant of trying to help people find the information they need, helping them learn how to use the resources” the library offers, she said.
Also, there’s been a greater outreach effort to bring younger people into the library, she said.
“We frequently like to go out to the schools” to talk about what the library has to offer, Day said, noting that due to budget cuts, “schools do not frequently employ a librarian anymore.”
In the youth services department, Blu-ray movies and music on compact discs share shelves with books.
“When I started we had LP records and VHS tapes,” Day, 67, said. “Now we’re reaching people in new ways.”
The way technology is evolving, it’s anybody’s guess what form that might take, but Day said she’s probably not the person best equipped to help library patrons navigate those changes.
“A lot of new things will happen, technology-wise,” Day said, and the library needs “someone who is more tech-savvy to guide us through the next stage.”
Library officials are interviewing for her replacement, and, depending on how quickly someone can be hired, Day said she isn’t opposed to sticking around a little longer to help with a transition.
Day said that when she gets time to read for her own enjoyment, she’s a fan of nonfiction books.
“I don’t have enough time to read as much as I’d like,” she said. “I’m looking forward (after retirement) to being able to spend more time reading.”