Joyce Colander, manager for the Chicago Public Library Beverly branch, 1962 W. 95th St., starts her workday emptying out the return bin, stamping newspapers, turning on computers and making sure materials are ready for patrons to read and use.
Two minutes until opening, she’s at the front door.
“I like to open just a couple of minutes early because people are always waiting,” she said.
Colander’s career with the Chicago Public Library spans more than 50 years.
“I thought about becoming a school librarian,” she said, “but I’ve always liked working with the public because you get to serve people of all ages, from all walks of life.”
Starting in 1963 while a senior at Gage Park High School, Colander worked part-time as a library page at the library branch in Chicago Lawn. In 1969, after earning a master’s degree in library science from Rosary College, now Dominican University, Colander joined the Sherman Park branch as a first assistant in adult services.
When the Beverly branch opened in May 1970 at 2116 W. 95th St., a space now occupied by Top Notch Beefburgers, she assumed a position as librarian I, first assistant, in adult services. By 1972, she was promoted to librarian II, first assistant.
At the original location, Colander dealt with the aftermath of a fire.
“We spent days scrubbing the covers of books,” she said. “We had to haul them on carts through the snow to a nearby temporary location once occupied by a pharmacy.”
After taking a hiatus that began in 1975 to start a family and raise her five sons and daughter, Colander sought full-time employment. Her husband, a veteran of the Vietnam War, struggled with health challenges that made it difficult for him to work.
Colander returned to the Beverly branch as a librarian II, first assistant, in March 1985, and was promoted to librarian III, first assistant, in 1988. She welcomed patrons to the branch’s second permanent location at 2105 W. 95th St., a space once occupied by Lain and Son Funeral Chapel, and now a Barraco’s banquet hall.
Colander officially assumed responsibilities as branch manager in 2005 and opened the new Beverly branch in 2009 at its current location.
Rather than be hidden away in an administrative office, she spends most of her time at the reference desk. It’s situated in the main study area and offers access to the circulation desk, the children’s library section as well as fiction/literature and non-fiction stacks.
Each week, Monday through Thursday and again on Saturday, Colander pitches in with other staff members to help patrons find and check out materials, as well as use the library’s computers and copy machine. She also oversees maintenance of the building, schedules staff and special programs, culls outdated library materials, and purchases new library materials.
Colander has weathered onslaughts of children needing reference materials for school papers and waves of adults needing help with job applications. For years, she’s even supplied cookies for writers’ forums and other presentations held at the library.
She’s configured the facility to cater to the preferences of Beverly patrons.
“People in this neighborhood travel a lot, so those books seem to circulate the most,” she said, explaining that travel books are in their own section, not far from fictional best-sellers and current non-fiction.
“People coming from elsewhere also spend significant time on the computers applying for jobs or using the materials in the library,” she said. “So, we cater to their needs, too.”
Colander has seen many changes, including automation of the checkout system and the elimination of fines for overdue materials.
“We used to write down library-card numbers on cards corresponding to the materials checked out. Now, we only write down library-card and book numbers when the computers go out, which isn’t very often,” she said.
With no plans to retire any time soon, Colander said that one thing hasn’t changed over the decades.
“I love working here,” she said, “and being among the patrons.”