A Career Milestone Arlington Heights Library Director Retires after 15 Years

Article excerpt

Byline: Jon Davis Daily Herald Staff Writer

Kathy Balcom has reached a final chapter.

She's worked in libraries since her high school days - the last 15 years leading the Arlington Heights Memorial Library as its executive director.

On Friday, she closes that book by retiring not just from the library at 500 N. Dunton Ave., but from the profession that guided her life and even led to her marriage.

"I certainly understand the definition of bittersweet now," Balcom said. "I will miss the people I work with and the people we serve so very much. I will miss that human contact."

Her colleagues will miss her, too, for they credit her with making the library what it is today.

She joined the library in 1989, just after a failed referendum on expanding the building. Within two years, she successfully led the effort to approve a $9.4 million expansion and renovation plan, which was executed in 1995.

More recently, the library incorporated the Internet and a wireless network, and just this year put the finishing touches on new lighting, furniture and decor renovations in the library's oldest wing, which dated from 1968.

And on March 12, Balcom was given the North Suburban Library System's inaugural Lifetime Achievement award at a banquet at the Concorde Banquet Center in Kildeer.

"She's leaving behind a staff that really strives to work together as a team; a building that's positioned itself to be even more customer-centered; a collection that's up to date," said Paula Moore, the library's interim executive director, who came here from the Downers Grove Public Library in 1991 because of Balcom.

"It's going to be a different world for us without her here," she said.

Moore first worked for Balcom in 1979 and came north because she missed Balcom's passion for libraries and her management style, which "was always an inspiration to me."

"I just always wanted to do my best when working for her," Moore said. "We never accepted the status quo as good enough."

Where that attitude started, Balcom, 55, could not say. She does trace being bitten by the library bug back to her high school days in Urbana, when she worked at that downstate city's public library.

She did everything from circulation to events programming, "which told me right away that libraries are fun places," Balcom said. …