DeKalb native comes full circle as library’s new director

Marcia McCarthy

Emily Faulkner greeted library visitors and patrons during an open house introducing the new director to the community last Saturday. Faulkner is a DeKalb native and said she was a frequent library patron while growing up. (Photo by Jack McCarthy / Chronicle Media)

Emily Faulkner is no stranger to the DeKalb Public library—she spent hours of her youth among the book stacks.

As an adult, after schooling and career moves that took her as far away as London, England—the DeKalb native has come full circle and now runs the show in her home town.

Faulkner, the new library director, greeted a steady stream of community members last Saturday during an open house in the library’s spacious, modern lobby.

As a child Faulkner attended a nearby Montessori school, then went through public schools and graduated from DeKalb High School in 1999.  She attended Wittenberg College in Ohio and later earned a Master’s of Information Science degree from City University, London, England.

During Faulkner’s 10 years of professional library experience she was instrumental in implementing and expanding programming for the Chicago Public Library’s Maker’s lab initiative.  Library patrons there are now offered a hands-on, collaborative learning environment for 21st  century technologies such as 3D printers and electronic cutters.

She also served as the cultural and civic engagement librarian, responsible for managing more than 30 partnerships with educational institutions, museums, nonprofit organizations and city and stare agencies.

Faulkner designed programs by authors, entertainers and local experts for 80 Chicago branch libraries.

And then, “This opportunity opened up” — the director’s job at DeKalb. Faulkner succeeded Dee Coover on Jan. 16 after Coover retired after 22 years with the library, the last 10 as director.

Faulkner greeted patrons on Saturday dressed in a dark, conservative attire, combined with a welcoming approach.

She talked about loving the diversity of DeKalb and also the beauty of the library itself, which underwent a $25.3 million expansion and renovation that tripled the library’s size.

Faulkner talked about the increased space as she discussed her long-term vision for the library.

“I really hope that we can find ways to really maximize our use of this space—make sure that every room is being used, every resource is being advertised and publicized, so that people really know what they have supported and what we can continue to support,” Faulkner recently told Northern Public Radio.

The two-year project more than tripled the library’s size by adding a 45,000-square-foot addition that opened in January 2016.  It also included renovations to the historic, 1930s-era Haish Library building.  The library’s historic section reopened last September.

“I think a lot of people maybe haven’t been to the library in awhile because it was a smaller building,” she told NPR. “And if your kids aren’t school age, maybe you don’t think about it as a place for you.

“But I think that it really can be a place for everybody,” said Faulkner, who herself has three children under age 5.