LODA — After living and working for decades in the Chicago suburbs, Teri Hennessy has fallen in love with the small-town life.
The 68-year-old Hennessy retired from a 27-year career in education in June 2015 and moved permanently to Bayles Lake in rural Loda.
The differences between the bustling suburbs and the rural communities of Ford and Iroquois counties became apparent last year, when she filled in for three months as a librarian at Paxton-Buckley-Loda Junior High School while the school’s librarian was on maternity leave.
She continues to notice the differences these days, too, in her new position as director of the Loda Township Library.
"I feel working here is great, because I get to see not only my neighbors from around my lake but I also get to see the neighbors who are over at Lake Iroquois and meet some of them and also meet some of those from around town here in Loda, too," Hennessy said.
After working at a school in suburban Wilmette for 11 years, Hennessy has embraced the more relaxed and personal atmosphere.
"Wilmette had 950 students, and you hardly got to know them when they were moving on to New Trier (High School). I got to know a few of them really well, but not that many," said Hennessy, who served as a library information specialist in the Wilmette public school system.
At Wilmette, Hennessy worked at the seventh- and eighth-grade level in the school’s computer lab and library.
"We taught a lot of research skills and worked with students as well as teachers in developing lessons, incorporating library skills or helping them out with computer technology, whether it was a new app or whiteboards or they were taking out the Chromebooks or iPads or something like that," she said.
Prior to working in Wilmette, Hennessy was employed for 16 years at schools in suburban Oak Forest and Tinley Park, including nine years teaching third-graders and the rest of the time working in school libraries and computer labs.
Earlier, she was a stay-at-home mom who worked part time in the legal field. She has five children and eight grandkids.
Upon her retirement in 2015, Hennessy and her girlfriend, Catherine Rosen, moved permanently to Bayles Lake. Hennessy had bought a small home in the southwestern Iroquois County community in 2007 for the purpose of using it as a weekend home. When she decided to retire, she sold that house and bought a larger one at the lake, making it her permanent residence.
When Kim Geurts left her job as the Loda Township Library’s director in June 2018, Hennessy jumped at the chance to take the job. Geurts had been the library’s director for a few years, following the retirement of longtime director Nancy Seamands.
Hennessy started her new job on Sept. 1, after first being trained on the library’s system by Geurts and Vicky Reetz, director of the Onarga Public Library.
"I just love being back in a library," Hennessy said.
At the library in Loda, Hennessy’s job entails keeping the library’s collection of about 7,000 books updated and "finding out what it is people want to read, what it is they want from their library and trying to help them get that."
"I’d like to get more of the public in here and find out what it is they want from their library," she said. "I’ve been in libraries long enough to know it’s a very service-oriented place. ... You have to do what your patrons want — what your clients want — so I want to find out more about what that is and give them those services."
Besides acquiring new books people want to read, Hennessy’s job also involves promoting the fact that the library is part of the Illinois Heartland Library System, which means Loda library patrons can check out titles from any of the other 500 libraries in the state that are part of that same system.
"I feel a lot of people don’t know that you can order books from any library — that we do have an online card catalog — and that you can pick (the books) up from any other library," Hennessy said.
The fact that the library also has books available to read online — in the "cloud library" — is also something Hennessy wants to promote.
"If you see a little ‘cloud’ icon (by the book’s title on our website), that means you can download it right to your device," Hennessy said. "It’s through a free app. When it says (a book is) available in the cloud library, you can download (the book) for free to your device."
Hennessy said she plans to offer workshops on evenings at the library to teach people how to use services such as the online card catalog or cloud library — "and get them to know the new, 21st-Century library."
Hennessy also hopes to hold other programs for the public, including those in which local authors could discuss their books or people who have gone on trips can talk about their experiences. Poetry readings are also being considered.
Hennessy said she plans to expand the library’s hours, as well. The library currently is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. But she plans to keep the library open until 5 p.m. on those four weekdays in the future.
The Loda library, built in 1897, is only 1,400 square feet, but Hennessy said the library’s plentiful collection of books makes it "small but mighty."
Hennessy said library cards are free for residents of Loda Township and can be purchased by others for a $70 annual fee.
For more information, people can call Hennessy at 217-386-2783.