River Forest
River Forest Library Director Dawn Bussey is leaving to take the top job at the Glen Ellyn Public Library. She informed library board President Mark Coe of her decision Monday. The board of directors was informed at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Her last day is Thursday, March 15.

Bussey said Wednesday the chance to work near where she grew up and also make a significant career move was too good an opportunity to pass up. She earned her M.L.S. degree here at Dominican University but grew up in the Glen Ellyn/Wheaton area, and is looking forward to going home.

“This is simply an offer I can’t refuse-in the most positive sense,” Bussey said. “My husband and I grew up in the Glen Ellyn/Wheaton area and look forward to returning there.” Bussey said she and her husband, plan to move closer to the town this summer after their two daughters finish the school year.

She also wanted a new challenge. With a population of over 27,000 people and 6.6 square miles, Glen Ellyn is well over twice the size and population of River Forest, which offers opportunities Bussey said she couldn’t pass up.

“I wanted to take the next step,” Bussey said. “It’s a larger library with a larger budget. I’ll be able to do some things I haven’t been able to do with [River Forest’s] limited budget and limited staff.

Coe said Wednesday that Bussey, who won the Glen Ellyn position over a nationwide field, according to media reports there, had been interviewing since November.

He said he wasn’t surprised that Bussey was leaving. “River Forest was her first director’s role but not the library she wanted to retire from,” he said.

Coe was effusive in his praise of Bussey, calling her “a dynamo” who had overseen an extensive revamp of the library systems, as well as several renovation projects at the library.

The library board currently has two people in mind for the position of interim director, Coe added. A search committee is also in place though a decision on whether or not to use a consultant to identify potential candidates has not yet been made.

Oversaw major changes

Bussey expressed satisfaction with her accomplishments during her 30-month tenure, saying there have been many improvements, and she is leaving a strong staff in place. According to Coe, Bussey came to River Forest at a time when the library board was facing major challenges in terms of its programming, physical plant and its profile in the community. A 2004 survey of village residents indicated that only a minority of River Forest residents were satisfied with the library’s services and most viewed it as largely non-essential to the village.

Bussey was presented with a long list of expectations when she started work back on Aug. 1, 2004.

“When she got her, she was charged with making major changes,” said Coe.

She went right to work, modernizing and revamping a respected but decidedly old-school and shop-worn institution.

To help Bussey with those tasks, the library board sought permission from the village board in the spring of 2005 to use $457,000 of the village’s limited tax bond authorization. Coe noted at the time that capital improvements had been deferred for as long as 10 years, and repair and replacement work were needed for the heating and air-conditioning system, the library’s slate and flat roofs, skylight repairs, landscaping, renovating the children’s library, creating a teen area and a new phone system.

Something of a computer geek, Bussey brought the library into the 21st century, improving its website, digitizing elements of the program, and upgrading computer software that hadn’t been reviewed since 1998.

“When she came here, we were purchasing (VHS) cassettes,” said Coe. “Now we’re buying DVDs.”

An earlier Wednesday Journal article quipped, “Dawn Bussey might as well be named Darn Busy.”

The results of all that hard work have been outstanding, Coe said.

“Circulation is up, visitors are up, there’s a children’s program now and a teen section. The book collection was weeded and is reasonably current,” he noted.

Along the way, the reputation of the library was transformed from genteel obsolescence to an interesting, user-friendly destination.

“Our statistics are through the roof,” said Coe. “We’ve gone from a reasonably satisfied patron population to a very satisfied patron population.”

As Bussey said back in 2004, “We’ll never be the Oak Park library, but we’re going to be the best River Forest library we can be.” But that will now be someone else’s charge.

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