Music and romance on Valentine's Day at Waukegan Public Library

Post date: Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 5:52pm

Enjoy the romantic sounds of 1920s jazz with a special Valentine’s Day concert on Friday, February 14 in the Bradbury Room of the Waukegan Public Library. The West End Jazz Band takes the stage at 1 p.m. and will be followed by a special showing of the 1926 romantic silent film “Don Juan”.

From Chicago, the West End Jazz Band has recreated the nostalgic sounds of the 1920s and 1930s for 34 years. With music that ranges from beautiful ballads to zany, nonsense songs to straight dance medleys, the West End reflects the romantic and sweet side of the golden age. West End has been invited to some of the most prestigious jazz festivals, played concerts throughout the United States, and toured Europe twice. The band has seven CDs and has regularly played the Sunday Jazz Brunch at the Milk Pail near Elgin for the past twelve years.

Directly following the performance, everyone is invited to stay and watch the silent film “Don Juan” at 2:30 p.m. Premiering on August 6, 1926, and starring John Barrymore, “Don Juan” was the first feature-length film with synchronized Vitaphone sound effects and musical soundtrack, though it has no spoken dialogue. It holds the record for the film with the most kisses in film history, with Don Juan planting 191 kisses on various females during the course of the film, an average of one every 53 seconds.

Drinks and baked goods will be available for purchase by the Friends of the Waukegan Public Library and popcorn will be served during the film. Waukegan Public Library concerts are generously sponsored by the Friends of the Waukegan Public Library.

To listen to a clip of the West End Jazz Band, visit  For questions about library concerts, call Rena Morrow, Marketing and Exhibits Manager, at (847) 623-2041, ext. 231.

Waukegan Public Library confronts low literacy rates head on

Post date: Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 2:56pm

At the City Council meeting on December 16, 2013, members of the Waukegan Public Library staff presented a statistical overview of the city’s literacy rates and the Library’s vision for the future that prioritizes its commitment to literacy for preschoolers through adults. Also known as “Literacy 2020”, the library’s future direction will concentrate on classes, programs, and resources that help community members be successful as literate individuals, employees, and citizens, regardless of barriers such as language, income, or age.

“A literate community is a successful community,” stated Richard Lee, executive director of the Waukegan Public Library. “Since Andrew Carnegie gave the City of Waukegan the funds to build the first library, we have been in the learning and literacy business. Libraries are not about books, they are about reading, resources, and access to information.”

Over the past year, library staff pulled together data and conducted surveys to determine the levels of literacy in the Waukegan community and what factors contribute to low literacy. Research showed that 17% of Waukegan residents live below the poverty level, higher than the average state level of 13%. “The United Nations defines poverty as a lack of capacity to participate effectively in society,” said Lee. “We know that literacy and the ability to read is a crucial factor in helping residents have more opportunities to be successful and essentially raise them out of the cycle of poverty.”

However, poverty is just one of the causes that hold residents back from being successful. Research pointed to other reasons that include a lack of education, language differences, health issues, and low technology skills, all factors that are related to basic functional and cultural literacy, in essence, knowledge as fundamental as when to go to the doctor, how to read street signs, or even how to print a form from a website.

For the last 30 years, the Waukegan Public Library has maintained literacy programs for adults and families with the help of partner organizations like the Literacy Volunteers of Lake County and outside funding sources. While a component in the overall library mission, literacy services had always taken a back seat to more established library priorities: the collection. Moving forward and away from a more traditional view of the library, Lee announced that the library’s new direction more firmly aligns the library’s own resources, including budget, staff, and space, to literacy. “I guess it’s been one of our best kept secrets, but now will be our number one priority.”

“Our new vision is called the Path to Learning and Literacy and highlights four of the target areas where we feel we can have the most impact and make a difference in the community from birth to adulthood,” said Elizabeth Stearns, Assistant Director of Community Services. Kindergarten Readiness, Grade Level Reading and School Readiness, College and Career Awareness, and Adult and Family Cultural and Functional Literacy are the four major areas that the Library will focus its relevant and innovative programming with the goal to increase literacy levels by 25% by the year 2020.

Summing up the presentation, Lee echoes how vital literacy is to our community. “The ability to read affects everything from graduation rates to employment as well as crime, health care, and our overall standard of living. At the library, we are committed to creating a community of readers from cradle to career. When our residents are successful, our city will be successful.”

Waukegan library breaks down barriers with Spanish GED

Post date: Monday, January 20, 2014 - 10:57am

By Judy Masterson jmasterson [at] stmedianetwork [dot] com January 18, 2014 7:24PM
For the Lake County News-Sun


Gloria Velez kept hearing from co-workers at the Waukegan assembly plant where she works that she had to get her GED.

“What’s a GED?” the recent immigrant from Colombia wondered.

In one visit last year to the Waukegan Public Library, Velez, 47, the mother of a teenage son, learned that the high school equivalency diploma meant better prospects. She quickly enrolled in the library’s Spanish GED preparation course and within six weeks, she had passed all five GED subject exams in addition to a test on the U.S. government.

How did she do it?

“The instructors, my commitment and a desire to keep learning,” said Velez through a translator.

In her pre-GED life, Velez would have been satisfied with a job as a personal assistant. But now she intends to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work. She is also volunteering as a Waukegan library “promotoras ambassador” or outreach worker.

“The work the library is doing to put people on the path to literacy is my passion,” said Velez, who recruited her sister, who has lived in the U.S. for many years, and six co-workers for Spanish GED.

Thirty-two Spanish speakers earned a GED after studying at the library last year. Another 37, of the 98 enrolled in 2013, passed at least three of the required exams. Nearly 100 people were placed on a waiting list.

The library, which last year received the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, started the volunteer-led class after hearing from a growing number of patrons who said they had failed to pass a GED pre-test administered by the College of Lake County. Some came in search of the four-inch thick GED test prep book, but didn’t know “how to even begin to study,” according to Carmen Patlan, library manager of community engagement and Spanish literacy services.

“If they didn’t pass that test, a lot of them simply gave up,” Patlan said.

The library’s Spanish GED is structured to include educational levels from second through eighth grade. Some students are barely literate in their native language.

Volunteer GED and English as a Second Language instructor Fabio Gomez, a middle-school teacher in his native El Salvador who also obtained a GED, said it’s a struggle to teach to so many levels.

“But there’s no other place that can help these people,” Gomez said. “They know what they need: to finish the GED and learn English.”

Students enrolled in CLC Spanish GED numbered 247 in 2013. Raiana Mearns, CLC dean of adult basic education GED and ESL, said the college can’t enroll students until they test at the ninth-grade level − a requirement of state grant funding.

“We’re very happy to serve them − at that level,” Mearns said.

But that leaves a lot of people behind, especially in areas like Waukegan where 45 percent of Latinos have less than a high school education “not because they don’t have the skills to succeed,” Patlan said, “but because they struggle every day with cultural barriers that include language, health, and transportation.

“If we can break down barriers that keep them from succeeding, the ripple effect on families and our community − from better-paying jobs and promotions to enrolling in college classes to the help they can give to their children in school − is huge,” Patlan said. “Every student who walks through our doors is investing in their future and we are excited to be a part of that.”