One woman has helped transform a tiny local library that could not stay open seven days a week into a two-story, state-of-the-art building.
Annette Armstrong recently retired from her position at Green Hills library director after 18 years. Her farewell celebration, which included guest appearances from former Hickory Hills City Clerk Joann Jackson and Executive Director of the Hickory Hills Park District Jennifer Fullerton was hosted by colleagues and took place on her last day on June 30 at the library.
Taking over Armstrong’s position was former Green Hills Assistant Director, Jane Jenkins on July 1. Jenkins is coming to Green Hills from Oak Lawn Library, where she was hired on in 2014 as the director of youth services.
“She is a good hire for us,” Armstrong said, “She has a wonderful personality and will be a recognizable face for our patrons.”
With a passion for books and libraries, Armstrong took on a position at Green Hills Library after working as the assistant director of the Palatine Public Library and a youth librarian at Schaumburg Township Public Library. Residing in Elmhurst, she admits the commute to the Palos Hills library was not an easy one at first.
“When I first started here in 1997, I got lost over a million times,” she said. “But I absolutely love working in the Southwest suburbs. South Siders are very hardworking and honest people.”
The library, located at 8611 W 103rd Street in Palos Hills, has undergone some major changes thanks to a tax referendum pushed through by Armstrong in 2004. The increase was 12 cents on top of the existing lowest legal rate of 15 cents for Hickory Hills and Palos Hills residents allotted for a $5 million re-construction project to the library. It was open for business in 2008.
“We were really just a small, little one-story hill-front library,” Library Board President, Rick Kelleher said, “Thanks to Annette’s visions and ideas, we have become a two-story modern building that is eco-friendly, overlooks the beautiful Moraine Valley landscaping and is up-to-date with technology.”
Prior to the renovation project, the library was closed on Sundays and closed early every Tuesday and Thursday, according to Kelleher. Now with a 12,000-square-foot renovated property, the library remains open seven days a week, year round.
“Every organization has to keep evolving and that applies to individuals as well,” Armstrong said. “My inspiration comes from keeping current with changes in technology, managing space, services, how people communicate, learn, entertain themselves, and staying connected to changes happening in the private sector as well as what’s going on in other libraries.”
The renovation project added many new aspects to the library, including: a youth center, a teen area with a 70-inch flat screen television where teen can watch movies or play Xbox, a media center, a screened-in garden patio for outdoor reading, an adult reading room with a fireplace, multiple independent study rooms and a full media lab comprised with green screens.
“The outdoor patio is beautiful,” Kelleher said, “You would not believe the spectacular sunset overlooking the greenery.”
Kelleher was recruited by Armstrong for his position as library board member.
“Annette has a very fun, outgoing and bubbly personality,” he said. “She takes the time to get out there and get to know her patrons. I was just a patron that would visit the library regularly with my children and Annette approached me and said we could really use someone like you on our library board.”
Armstrong said diversity is always a key among her library board members.
“On our board we have had a lot of diversity including homemakers, senior citizens, parents and people who have moved here that want to make the community better,” she said.
Kelleher said to be very happy he said yes to the role as library board member seven years ago, because three years after, he became the board president. The staff, colleagues, Illinois State Legislators, library trustees, community members and many of the library’s vendors including Studio GC – the library’s architectural firm, their auditor, and insurance broker is who Armstrong says she will miss the most.
“It’s the people that you miss and the experiences,” she said, “I’ve learned so much from all of them but I’m not sure if I will miss them because I plan to stay in touch.”