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Elgin library branch celebrates a successful year
By Harry Hitzeman | Daily Herald Staff

Branch assistant Devi Turner restocks books at the Rakow Branch of the Elgin Public Library. The branch is celebrating its anniversary this weekend.

 

Rick West | Staff Photographer

Sydney Trewartha, 13, of Elgin browses for books at the Rakow Branch of the Elgin Public Library. The west side branch marks its anniversary this weekend.

 

Rick West | Staff Photographer

The Rakow Branch of the Elgin Public Library is celebrating its one year anniversary this weekend.

 

Rick West | Staff Photographer

Steven Wleklinski checks out a video from the Mediabank at the Rakow branch of the Elgin Public Library. The west side branch marks its anniversary this weekend.

 

Rick West | Staff Photographer

Branch assistant Devi Turner restocks books at the Rakow Branch of the Elgin Public Library, which this weekend will celebrate its anniversary.

 

Rick West | Staff Photographer

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Published: 8/14/2010 12:00 AM

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Steven Wleklinski visits the 24-hour, external DVD dispenser at the Rakow Branch of the Gail Borden Public Library about once a month.

This week, it was to pick up a last-minute "Ben 10" DVD to help entertain his visiting nephew.

A year ago, this little trip might have required the 10-year South Elgin resident to drive further or even make a jaunt to the local video store.

"It's very convenient," Wleklinski said of the Rakow Branch. "It's a nice setting. It suits my needs."

From September 2009 through July 2010, 45,738 DVDs and games were checked out from the dispenser, which library officials say is the only one of its kind in the United States,

Wondering what the 45,738 number means? It's about six items checked out from the library every hour of every day, around the clock.

The DVD dispenser is just one successful aspect of the west side branch, which library officials designed to accent the services offered at the main Gail Borden building in downtown Elgin.

The $4.2 million, 10,000-square-foot branch will celebrate its anniversary Sunday with an open house from 1 to 3 p.m., as well as the unveiling their gold certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and an announcement that branch will be open on Thursdays this fall.

The popularity of the DVD dispenser is no surprise to Carole Medal, the Gail Borden executive director.

"People like to have the flexibility rather than saying 'Let's go to the library and see what they have.' Now people can go online, put a hold on it and get it later," Medal said.

Gail Borden leaders hope Rakow will be a blueprint for other suburban libraries. In the past year, numerous suburban library officials, and even ones from France, have toured the branch for ideas.

The branch, named after a substantial donation toward materials by the Rakow family, contains only items less than three years old and places an emphasis on self service.

"It's a self-service branch and I truly feel it is a model for a 21st Century library," Medal said. "It works. The public finds it really easy to use."

Patrons - who have checked out more than 130,000 books from the branch, helping the district set a new one-year record of more than 2 million circulation - agree with Medal.

"I love the convenience of checking out myself," said Valerie Lennard. "The design of the building is inspiring. The fact that all the books are new is nice."

Lennard, who moved from Chicago to Elgin three years ago, said there are more places to sit at Rakow compared to the downtown Gail Borden Library.

"I think they did a nice job locating the branch and siting it on the land," she said. "It's nonintrusive and fits in well with the prairie."

Caitlin Bull, an Elgin resident working on her master's degree and teaching certification at Northern Illinois University, praised the branch's offerings for children.

"It's a great place for kids," said Bull, who tutors at Rakow once a week. "It's easy for kids to pick out books. It's not alphabetical or by author. (Younger) kids don't know that yet."

Rakow also was built with several environmentally friendly elements, including a series of geothermal wells to reduce heating and cooling costs.

"To build a green building is expensive. There's no two ways about it," Medal said. "The (library) board felt that as a public entity is was important to set an example."