The Evanston Public Library takes its programming outside for the 2021 summer. The upcoming calendar boasts block parties, ward festivals, gatherings in parks, events for teens, programs in Spanish, and more. 

The library’s engagement team is eager to involve the community in more library events, and since Evanston is still emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, this summer’s programs are almost all socially distanced. 

EPL staff are also working to ensure their programs are equitable and accessible. “We’re really intentional about engaging more deeply with the community, especially in neighborhoods where we haven’t done a great job historically,” said Engagement Services Manager Jill Skwerski. 

EPL on the Fly

EPL on the Fly is a series of outdoor gatherings geared towards younger, elementary school-aged children and their families. These gatherings occur every Monday through Thursday this summer, sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon, in parks across Evanston. Park locations include Brummel, Fleetwood-Jourdain, Mason, Elks, Penny, Leider, Twiggs, Baker, and Dawes.

The library will set up a STEM station, a reading station, and an activity station in the park. The STEM station provides such things as magnetic slime, origami, or a nest-making kit; and at the reading station, children can select books to check out. Four times throughout the summer, a District 65 librarian will also come and read books aloud to the children. The activity station is supplied with hula-hoops, soccer balls, and sidewalk chalk to help the children get outside and socialize. 

EPL staff will also be available to answer any questions about programs and opportunities. Children can also sign up for a summer reading challenge at EPL On the Fly events, and parents can sign up for or renew library cars. 

30-Day Summer Reading Challenge:

The EPL is also offering a 30-Day Summer Reading Challenge open to library lovers of all ages. The challenge encourages participants to read, and take part in the library’s summer programs, attend virtual events, complete STEM kits, and receive prizes throughout the 30 days. At the beginning of the program, the library is giving away a free book, that in previous challenges they gave out at the end of the summer. Participants can register for the challenge on the EPL’s website, or at the EPL On the Fly events. 

Taste of the Loft

Taste of the Loft is an opportunity offered to incoming sixth-graders through high-schoolers. There are bean-bag chairs on which teens can stretch out, and they can participate in programs such as DIY crafts, games,  mixing beats, fixing bikes, using a sewing machine, and gaming. The EPL Engagement Team ordered bottle rockets for the teens, and there is an additional Dungeons and Dragons teen program. 

“It’s a way to reach that age group that’s transitioning from the elementary into middle school in high school, and get them to use the library and become familiar with what we’ve got to offer,” said Ms. Skwerski. 

Friday Family Fun Nights

The Friday Family Fun Nights are a collaboration between the City of Evanston Health and Human Services Department and the Community Services Department. Families are encouraged to come out to parks on the first Friday of every month, beginning at 6 p.m. City staff will offer a light meal and the library will hand out free books. 

At the June 4 Friday Family Fun Night, library staff handed out STEM kits, participants made squirt-bottle art, and children played on a huge inflatable obstacle course. The event also organized senior bingo and a drumming circle. 

My City, Your City, Our City 

My City, Your City, Our City is a series of block parties and ward festivals organized by the EPL and the City’s Health Department and Community Services Department. These festivities include many of the same activities as the Friday Family Fun Nights, such as STEM kits, reading challenge sign-ups, an inflatable obstacle course, a meal, and more. 

The most recent block party occurred on June 5 at the 1800 block of Hovland Court. Ms. Skwerski said it was great rebuilding community after the pandemic. “It was a lovely event,” she said. “It was just really a joy-filled occasion.”

Robert Crown Branch Library Reading Garden

The new branch library in the Robert Crown Community Center has an outdoor reading garden. EPL programs and groups will meet in that space all summer. A female-identifying bike club for teens meets in the reading garden, and that space is where the teens from the Taste of the Loft will shoot off bottle rockets. 

“We’re really hoping to utilize that space to invite people to Crown to see the new branch library and to participate in outdoor programming,” said Ms. Skwerski. 

Saturday Spanish Events

EPL’s Saturday Spanish events are another great way to get to know the library, said Ms. Skwerski. These events occur on select Saturdays and take place in various parks across the City. On the first Saturday of every month there will be a yoga class in Twiggs Park. The library is also hosting a Double Dutch tournament at Brummel Park on the 19th, and an evolution of hip hop class there on the 26th. 

EPL Is Working Toward Equity

The library is trying to become more equitable in the way it provides services, in the people it hires, and in its accessibility to the whole Evanston community, said Ms. Skwerski.

“We are committed to working towards equity in our organization,” she said. “The work that we’re doing this summer is a way for us to share that vision with the community, but also to listen to the community to hear what equity means to them.” 

Part of the library’s strategic planning involves hosting town calls and listening processes. Anyone interested in participating is invited. There will also be an upcoming back-to-school event that residents can anticipate. A calendar of the upcoming events can be found on the EPL website. 

Adina Keeling

Adina Keeling is a photojournalist and reporter, covering city news, sustainability, schools, and art. She also investigates mental health systems and environmental injustices in Evanston, and puts together...