And the story has come to a close

James Casey will open a new book after 20 years at Oak Lawn Library

(From May 17, 2012)

After 20 years as the head of the Oak Lawn Public Library, James Casey will come the end of June step down from his post.

Casey, 61, will work his last day at the library on June 29. He began working in the library sector in 1973 in Ohio, and came to Oak Lawn in 1992. He earned a bachelor's degree in history, with a minor in German, from LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., and received a scholarship to attend library school at the State University of New York in Geneseo. After graduate school he worked in Cleveland for 10 years, and during that time worked toward his doctorate at Case Western University. He got his first job as a director at Pickaway County District Library in Circleville, Ohio, outside Columbus.

"I had to do almost every job in the library," Casey said. "I did the grant writing, budgeting, hired personnel, did the public relations, ran board meetings, cleaned the walls, unplugged toilets, and even killed bats."

Getting the job in Oak Lawn was a "glorious opportunity," Casey said. He and his wife, Diane, moved to Oak Lawn in 1992. Diane is a retired librarian who served as dean of the library at Governors State University for 10 years.

"We were glad to come to the greater Chicago area," Casey said. "Having been in a rural community [in Pickaway County], coming back to an urban environment was great."

Casey's favorite memories from his tenure as library director include the renovation and expansion project completed nearly 10 years ago. The $4.5 million, 16,000 square-foot expansion included a two story addition, meeting space, and glass walls to give patrons an unobstructed view of the Village Green to the north.

"It was a very exciting moment," Casey said. "We have seen advances in technology, too. We have upgraded our Internet and established a website. We didn't have the Internet 20 years ago - we still used a card catalogue."

Casey also helped create the library's local history unit and art gallery. He will miss working with the Friends of the Library, and the library's staff, board of trustees and volunteers.

"It is a real team effort here," Casey said. "This is a great job if you are fortunate enough to have it. The person who gets it will enjoy it."

Casey plans to do a lot of reading during his retirement, and he and his wife are planning several trips, he said. He also plans to volunteer in Oak Lawn community and at the church he and Diane attend in LaGrange.