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Columnist
Longtime library trustee has made an impact
By Sarah Long | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 4/15/2009 3:33 PM

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Showing your enthusiasm for the library can change your life.

More than 30 years ago, Morton Grove resident Estelle Cooperman went to a library open house with her son.

"We were new in the community," she said, "and with happy memories of the library from my childhood, I was interested in knowing what the library had to offer for both my son and myself."

While Cooperman was given a tour of the adult areas, her son was shown the children's area.

As Cooperman describes it, "A very nice woman engaged me in conversation about books and libraries. But soon my son returned and we left. I didn't think much about it, and so was very surprised when the same nice woman telephoned and asked me if I would like to run for a position on the library board of trustees. It turned out she was the president of the board and was looking for library-minded people to run for an open seat.

"I explained to her that I didn't feel I had much to offer. She assured me that my enthusiasm for the library would help me learn. It turns out she was right. That was 36 years ago and I have enjoyed every minute of my board service, and I like to think I have made a few contributions along the way."

Indeed, Cooperman has made a big difference at the Morton Grove Public Library. During her tenure, she has served as president, secretary and treasurer. She has also helped to hire three executive directors for the library.

"We have been very fortunate to have had such excellent leadership through the years," Cooperman said. "They have recruited top quality staff members and helped us keep up with the changing demographics of our area, as well as the latest trends in library service."

One of Cooperman's contributions was to reshape the library's annual book sale and make it profitable.

"We had an annual sale but it was too much work and too expensive. We had to rent tables and pay staff and there was very little profit. I suggested to Paul Feil, the executive director at the time, that we reorganize the sale from an annual event to a constant sale table. Paul thought it was a good idea, but pressed me to show how it would work. I agreed since it was my idea, and we did start to make money."

Cooperman also started a Friends of the Library group. At that time, she realized that the group in attendance did not wish to fundraise. Since they were interested in helping the library, a volunteer group was started. This continued until such time as the library no longer needed their help.

Throughout her tenure as a trustee, Cooperman has generously shared what she has learned. For example, several years ago she participated in a special committee of the North Suburban Library System to plan a curriculum for public library trustees. The effort resulted in a series of courses and other activities leading to trustee certification. In 2004, Cooperman was named "Trustee of the Year" by the North Suburban Library System.

Asked why she has decided to retire from the board, Cooperman said, "Being a public library trustee is a big responsibility and takes a lot of time. I want to do some other things. I've dusted off my sewing machine, and I want to get back to reading and listening to books. The library has an excellent board now and a fine executive director in Ben Schapiro. They'll be fine," she said.

Listen to my podcast interview with Cooperman at librarybeat.org.