Tag Archives: Mary Lynn Alms

Bridging the divide: Elburn’s past and present meet

by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—Over 10 years ago, the Elburn Town and Country Public Library Director Mary Lynn Alms and other library staff sorted through piles of boxes filled with papers and assorted historical items that were stored in a back room at the Elburn and Countryside Community Center. The materials had been put away when the Elburn Historical Society disbanded in the mid-1980s.

“We were surprised that there was so much great stuff,” Alms said. “We thought it was a good idea to someday take over the conservation and care of the collection. We had been thinking about it a lot.”

Two years ago, using money designated in an Elburn resident’s will for historical preservation, the library decided to hire the services of a professional archivist. Enter Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana, a consulting archivist with Kenamore and Klinkow of Wilmette, Ill. Her job is to make sense out of the existing materials in order to make them accessible to anyone who would like to research the history of Elburn.

“We organize, arrange, describe and make accessible the materials in a collection,” Cosgrove Lorenzana said. “Our job when we go in is to assess what’s in the collection, determine a set of parameters and decide how long it will take to process.”

Much of what is in the Elburn collection came from Bee Johnson, a member of the original historical society started in the 1970s. The oldest piece is from 1794: a Sadie Washington reception program that came from someone’s family history prior to settling in this area.

“If (Johnson) had not taken action, (we would not have this collection). The vast majority of what’s here was owned by Bee—90 percent,” Cosgrove Lorenzana said. “Her house was like a museum. Her intent was to capture the history of Elburn. She made meticulous lists.”

Her lists included transcribing the entire 1860 census and ensuring that people in photographs were identified.

While the library staff oversees the archival project, they do not have the specialized training to handle sensitive historical documents. The amount of material to process can be daunting, according to Alms.

“You can get lost in the collection for several hours. We’re interested, but we’re not experts,” she said. “You could give me all the time in the world, and I couldn’t organize the collection.”

Archivists like Cosgrove Lorenzana, who studied under the head archivist at the University of Illinois Chicago library, are trained in conservation and preservation of materials that might easily be damaged in untrained hands. She applies her professional judgment to decide whether or not to wear gloves and whether the public can handle the materials. Also, she organizes the materials into banker’s boxes, titling the collection and creating a hierarchy that will aid researchers who want to find particular information. Unlike a library that deals in books about subjects, an archive has primary materials such as two-dimensional objects like programs, documents, photos and other originals, as well as three-dimensional objects like tools and embroidered art work.

“We are a repository of information for researchers in the manner that a library provides books for people to read. An archive is a repository of primary documentation,” she said.

She explained that an archivist does not produce research out of the material that’s there. An archive is a place for people who want particular information to go to find it. For example, students working on a research project could look through the collection to find information that is not publically available.

“We hope people will take advantage of (the processed collection),” Alms said. “It is open to the public by appointment.”

The library also hopes that people with historical materials will consider contributing them. Of most interest are primary, or original, materials, rather than newspaper clippings or newspaper photographs.

Cosgrove Lorenzana, who is a resident of North Aurora, pointed out that Elburn’s collection has more personal history than is usual in most historical societies, and that fact has caused her to become even more interested in Elburn.

“Because of my love of genealogy and my personal passion for the history of rural towns, as I started to process this collection, I have gotten more and more attached to it,” she said. “How many times have you been driving down the street and seen boxes of junk? That is our cultural heritage being thrown away. It’s not intentional; we think of it as just stuff and think maybe there’s only a personal context. But that stuff has a greater context to the village of Elburn.”

Alms agrees that articles from history are a valuable resource for genealogists, students or anybody researching the past.

“I’ve been here 30 years, and this is the most exciting thing we’ve done,” she said. “It’s a great asset to the town.”

Feb. 2, 2012 Update: On the page 5A story in the Jan. 19 edition of the Elburn Herald, “Bridging the Divide: Elburn’s past and present meet,” a pair of photo identifications were switched. The photo on the bottom right of the page, originally identified as Daniel Smith, was actually the 1934 photo of resident Arthur Andersen. The photo in the center of the page was of Daniel Smith, whose father was a Civil War veteran.
The Elburn Herald wants its news reports to be fair and accurate. If you know of an error, please contact:
Ryan Wells, Editor
123 N. Main St., Elburn, IL 60119
e-mail: info@elburnherald.com

Merger keeps people reading

by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—Every day, three to five large canvas bags arrive at the Elburn Town and Country Library. They are filled with books that patrons have ordered through interlibrary loan. As part of the DuPage Library System, Elburn has access to many more books, videos and other materials than it could possible afford to stock on its own shelves.

As of July 1, 2011, the DuPage system will merge with four other northern and central Illinois library systems to form a single library system. The new system will provide services to more than 1,500 public, private, university and school library members. The consolidation of the five systems is hoped to reduce administrative costs, streamline operations and improve the coordination of resource sharing services.

“We don’t know right now what will happen,” said Mary Lynn Alms, Elburn Town and Country Library director. “We’re not sure how it will work.”

At this time, the DuPage system coordinates van delivery of books five days a week. According to a survey of member libraries, the number-one priority for the system is to coordinate the statewide delivery service. Since July 1 in Elburn, 8,838 books and materials have gone in and out of the library.

“The volume is huge,” said Circulation Manager Kathy Semrick. “We’ve had 6,300 requests (to borrow from other libraries) and 2,500 (requests to lend books to other libraries) that we have filled.”

The library system also provides consulting services for questions that come up regarding policy and procedures. They offered continuing education for the staff on topics such as interlibrary loan, customer service and reference.

“We’ve already seen some effect (of the impending merger). They have let a lot of staff go that provided us with consulting services,” Alms said. “They used to host a lot of free and low-cost classes, but now there are none at all.”

On June 30 the switch-over will take place. Everyone is counting on it being smooth.

“They say there will be no lag time; that it will be seamless. We’ll see,” Semrick said.

Archivist organizing Elburn artifacts

Library’s goal is to create public collection
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—A wealth of artifacts related to local history has been in storage for many years, boxed and stacked in two rooms at the Elburn & Countryside Community Center. Now, a project is under way to archive the artifacts and establish a collection that the public can see.

Archivist Laura Lorenzana is organizing the collection at the request of Town and Country Library Director Mary Lynn Alms, who hopes that someday all of the archived items will be housed at the library.

“I always thought that the library would be a good place for it,” Alms said. “It is our responsibility to preserve this historical information.”

The library adopted the collection from the former Elburn Historical Society.

“When we were finally able to acquire it, I was very excited,” Alms said.

A donation from the Almer Gliddon estate and the library budget are funding the project.

“Now the library has the ability to take care of the collection and make it accessible,” Lorenzana said. “Hopefully the people of Elburn will find value in it.”

Archivist Laura Lorenzana
Archivist Laura Lorenzana handles Elburn historical documents and photos with care. Photo by Martha Quetsch

Lorenzana said her job is to organize, arrange and describe material of enduring value, and make it accessible.

“Basically, we take somebody’s old stuff and put it together to be accessed for historical research,” said Lorenzana, an archivist for Kenamore & Klinkow, Inc. “We take things out of boxes and try to create an order.”

The Elburn artifacts, donated over the years by Elburn residents, have not been assembled for public viewing for more than two decades, since local historian Bea Johnson kept the collection. For decades, Johnson made it a personal mission to gather and maintain those items.

“Bea Johnson is the reason this material is here,” Lorenzana said. “She was a meticulous, detail-oriented hoarder.”

Village President Dave Anderson remembered seeing some of the artifacts at Johnson’s house at the northwest corner of Gates and Pierce streets in Elburn, where she filled the third floor with the historical collection.

“As Scouts, every year our den would go there and she would give us a presentation,” Anderson said.

After Johnson died, members of the former Elburn Historical Society stored the collection at various places, and when the group disbanded the artifacts ended up at the Community Center. There, locked in two rooms on the first floor, are stacks and boxes of artifacts-photos, school records, art, letters, trophies, military items, village documents, residents’ mementos and more.

There, Lorenzana has set up as small working space including a computer, where she spends two days a week delving into the collection, which she has found extremely interesting.

“This is one of the coolest collections I’ve ever seen because things are so interconnected,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana said among the “yummies” in the collection is a ringside ticket to the Tunney and Dempsey prize fight in Chicago in 1927. Who owned the ticket is a mystery, one of many she hopes to solve as she connects different elements of the collection.

“Someone in Elburn went to that fight,” Lorenzana said.

Photos of children and grade books from the early 1900s provide some of that connectivity. Having the students’ names, she can connect them to earlier family members whose photos in the archive date to the 1800s. Through a genealogy program, Lorenzana said she will be able to start making more familial connections among the photos and other items in the collection.

“We can start to put people together,” Lorenzana said. “We could make a genealogy of the village of Elburn through the 1940s. It’s a fascinating collection. From a genealogical standpoint, people would go nuts to get at it.”

Lorenzana is creating a database that will list and describe each item in the collection. She also wants to digitize all of the historical photos, some of which she has arranged in files and hundreds of others that still are in storage boxes.

Alms’ ultimate goal is to make the collection accessible to the public to view and study in a controlled setting at the library on North Street. However, that would require an addition to the building, she said.

“For the foreseeable future, it will be housed here (at the Community Center),” Alms said.

Among the artifacts
• A photo of Ever Swanson, who pitched for the Elburn Town Team in the 1920s and later was a White Sox outfielder.
• An 1870s desk from the former commuter train station in downtown Elburn.
• 1940s Red Cross nurse uniform that belonged to Elburn resident Edith Johansen, plus her Red Cross 1933 textbook and a recognition certificate signed by President Harry Truman.
• Military items that belonged to Elburn American Legion Post 630 member Charles Lee Morris, including a beret emblazoned with the post name and “Paris 1937,” which he wore while a member of the Foreign Pilgrimage Committee during a ceremony honoring WWII soldiers in France.
• The 1960 U.S. Census, hand-transcribed by Elburn historian Bea Johnson.
• A 1922 bill from the Elburn Herald for a public notice ad for the estate of Thomas E. Ferrell, which ran three times for $6.
• Elburn baseball and basketball statistics from 1921 through 1924, in a handwritten score book kept by Joseph Cheli.
• Cardboard diorama of Elburn circa 1895, probably made in the 1920s.
• A wood model of Albert’s Corner filling station, formerly located on the southwest corner of Routes 47 and 38.
• Elburn municipal records from 1905.

Dewey Dash to help library buy computers

Sunday’s runners, walkers, also will honor Friends member Kim Urquizu
by Martha Quetsch
Town and Country Public Library’s fifth annual Dewey Dash 5K run and 1K walk on Sunday, April 19, will honor former Friends of the Library member Kim Urquizu, who passed away last year.

Urquizu, a mother of three who died at age 41 of acute monocytic leukemia, was a dedicated Town and Country Library patron; she often helped with library special events like the Dewey Dash, both as a participant and a worker, Library Director Mary Lynn Alms said.

The library also will use a portion of the money received to purchase books in memory of Urquizu. This year’s event also will help the library replace two aging word processing computers in the public computer room, Alms said.

Since its inception, the Dewey Dash has had a literary “ghost runner.” This year’s is Robert Benchley, a once-popular humorist and New Yorker magazine essayist. Past ghost runners for the Dewey Dash include William Shakespeare and Arthur Conan Doyle.

“We try to choose worthwhile authors people might not necessarily pick up and read, who once were popular,” Alms said.

Benchley quotes will be posted throughout the racecourse, which is between North Street and Route 38, east of Route 47 (Main Street).

The library has used proceeds from past races for improvements to technology. The first Dewey Dash in 2005 provided the funds to start the library’s computer classes for adults. Since then, the race has also funded additional public Internet computers and equipment.

As of Monday afternoon, 138 people had signed up for the Dewy Dash. The Dewey Dash’s highest turnout was 300, in 2005.

Participants may choose to run or walk either race. The entry fees are $15 for the one-mile and $25 for the 5K. Snacks will be available after the race for all runners and walkers. The first 300 entrants are guaranteed a T-shirt.

The one-mile walk begins at 8:30 a.m. and the 5K starts at 9 a.m., at the library, 320 E. North St., Elburn. The 5K course is USA Track and Field certified. Race-day registration is offered from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Onlne registration is available at www.elburn.lib.us, through Saturday, April 18.

Photo: Town and Country Public Library’s annual Dewey Dash on Sunday offers same-day registration from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.
File Photo