HUNTLEY – While earning his law degree at the University of Nebraska, Frank Novak was charged with maintaining the law library at a firm in Lincoln.
The library work ultimately piqued Novak’s interests, and he embarked on a career path that brought him to five different libraries during the past two decades before landing at the Huntley Area Public Library in April.
The library’s newest director said he feels welcomed in a community that continues to grow and looks forward to leading a library that, officials say, has outgrown its space at 11000 Ruth Road.
Novak spearheaded a variety of building projects during the past eight years as director at the much larger Rockford Public Library system, which serves about 150,000 residents. He recently sat down with reporter Stephen Di Benedetto to discuss his move to Huntley and his goals for the library.
Di Benedetto: How has the transition to Huntley fared so far?
Novak: The transition has been incredible. I love my staff. I love my board. I love Huntley. The Huntley area is wonderful. Everybody who I have met so far have been welcoming. ... It’s been a really good experience. I’m really happy here.
Di Benedetto: It was a much larger system in Rockford. Why did you want to pursue the opportunity in Huntley?
Novak: A lot of folks have asked me that question, “Why do you want to leave such a big system?” For me, it was about quality of life. I felt as though I wanted a place where I could make a difference. ... It’s been a really good change for me. This area is also booming. ... Rockford certainly doesn’t have the same feeling, as far as the exciting opportunities. You have Weber Grills expanding here, the new train station coming into town. The new hospital is happening. The interchange is done. Quality of life is what it is for me, and I’m glad I made the switch.
Di Benedetto: You’ve had time now to assess what the library has done. Do you have any long-term goals yet for the library?
Novak: I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but we are out of space. That’s going to be an issue for us going forward. I don’t think we should try to put together a building program this first year but over time, we are going to have to evaluate that. This building is 15 years old and built around a time when the Huntley community was much, much smaller. ... Also, looking at our collections, how do we become more digital? We are already doing a really good job of that compared to other libraries. But we need to decide on how to approach digital information. Those are two big things for me – space and digital information.
Di Benedetto: Is expansion something you see happening at the library in the immediate future?
Novak: It depends on where my board members want to go, where the community wants to go. I think we need to analyze that and get a feel for it before we jump in. I do think it will happen at some point. We will have to address it. I do have building program experience. ... It takes time, and I think I’ll need a little bit of time before we get moving on something like that. ... I need to take my marching orders from the board. That’s going to happen over the next couple of years, I think.
Di Benedetto: What’s your preference – e-readers or traditional books?
Novak: I like the convenience of the reader. I can be at home, lying in bed with my Kindle and I can punch a button for a book, and it’s there. I didn’t have to go anywhere for that. Maybe that’s laziness, but I like both forms.
The Frank Novak lowdown:
Hometown: Rock Island (currently lives in Woodstock)
Family: Wife, Elizabeth; stepsons, Alex and Alden, both 18; biological son, Alex, 13
Favorite book: “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer
Favorite hobby: Plays drums and electric bass