Chesterton Tribune


Changing of the guard on WPL board: Hokanson and Robbins retire

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The Westchester Public Library Board lost a combined 45 years of experience Thursday with the retirements of long-time members Rick Hokanson and Sharon Robbins.

Hokanson has served a total 29 years on the board and Robbins 16 years.

Library director Phil Baugher presented each with a large, matted frame containing updated color photos of Thomas and Hageman libraries, the Library Service Center and the historic Brown Mansion in which the WPL-operated Westchester Township History Museum is located.

“Sharon, Rick, you were responsible for much of this,” said Baugher in making the presentation.

Addressing them, member Drew Rhed said, “Between the rest of us, we have about half the years you’ve put in. We should give them the tribute they’re due.” The board plans to host a private farewell dinner for Hokanson and Robbins.

She was known as the board’s official grammarian, and as the senior member it was Hokanson’s role to move to adjourn each meeting. “It’s bittersweet; I move we adjourn,” he said Thursday.

One of the two vacancies on the seven-member board has been filled. The Duneland School Board recently appointed Kathy Cochran of Porter, who attended the meeting but will take her seat next month. The Porter County Council’s appointment is pending.

During annual reorganization the board unanimously elected Nick Tilden president, Rhed vice-president, Michele Corazzo secretary and Abbe Trent treasurer.

Alarm project expands

The board accepted the $21,962 proposal of Kone, WPL’s current elevator-repair contractor, to install fire-alarm interface and fire-recall software on the 1975 Thomas elevator. The project includes installation of a hands-free emergency elevator phone. Urban Elevator at $23,400 was the only other firm to bid.

The work is tied to the new fire alarm system in all WPL buildings that is active and tested. Additional fire drills will take place soon.

The alarm system is part of expanding technology at WPL on several levels.

A new video security system has been installed and an internet-based telephone system is planned. Web links were added to the WPL website, and the integrated library computer system is scheduled for an April upgrade. Tablet readers loaded with newspaper and magazine links will be placed in the Thomas reading room soon.

Baugher said at some point WPL will need to expand its IT staff beyond information technician Mike Acsbok and his assistant as patrons will require greater access to electronic resources, more classes, more hours of assistance at help desks and more instruction how to use new technologies.

Use at WPL of its wireless internet, web page hits and online content jumped substantially in the first two months of 2013. Overall circulation of materials through February increased less than 1 percent.

Unusual meeting request

Baugher reported a new evangelical group requested the use of the LSC meeting room for a program called Snakes Alive involving nonvenomous snakes as part of a ministry outreach. The group plans to continue use of library facilities on a regular basis after the reptile program session.

“It’s not for us to judge what’s going on there as long as it’s legal, and it’s legal,” Baugher told the board. “It’s not like it’s poisonous-snake serpent handling, and there are snakes in the Bible.” WPL attorney Terry Hiestand recommended the group provide WPL with a certificate of insurance naming the library an additional insured for an aggregate amount of $2 million.

Thomas branch manager Leea Yelich advised she hopes to launch WPL’s new reading tutoring service the week of April 1. About 11 people have volunteered and an initial orientation will take place.

The board later adopted a library-director succession policy and designated Yelich to be the interim director in the event of the sudden loss or interrupted service of the director.

Baugher said late this year and into 2014 the library could see significant changes to its employee health-insurance plan due to implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The director said he’s begun gathering information and will monitor the situation closely.

Distributed were the patron conduct policy, the problem patron manual and an emergency policy for review and approval next month. April 17 both the Chesterton and Porter police departments will be invited to discuss with staff when authorities should be called for assistance with an emergency or problem patron.



Posted 3/15/2013