Grantee Partner Spotlight: South Macon Public Library

Summer Reading Program with Steve the magic man

SMPL Summer Reading Event with Steve the magic man

By Mark Hallett, Director of Grants Programs

Read Time 5 minutes
May 15, 2024

Founded in 1969, the South Macon Public Library is a “strong community partner providing programs and services that bring people together, and encourage lifelong learning and creativity. We strive to enrich present lives, and prepare for an ever-changing future.” 

The South Macon Public Library received an Illinois Humanities General Operating Grant to expand their programming, impact patrons of all ages and backgrounds, partner with community organizations, and start a newsletter to promote its activities and resources by hiring a part-time Community Engagement Coordinator. 

Read more about how the South Macon Public Library engages and supports the community, and about its director in the following Q&A.

A Q&A with Vicki Carr

Director of the South Macon Public Library

Tell us a little bit about your community, and broadly speaking how you view the role of a library?

We’re a small town of 1,400 people. We’re a farming community. We have a substantial senior population, of course with children too. We’re located about 12 miles south of Decatur, which is a good thing at times, and a bad thing at times. Sometimes businesses dry up because people can just drive into town.

But the library is here for everyone. Especially for those who can’t drive into Decatur anymore. Or who don’t have access to Wi-Fi or computers. We have phone issues; the wires come through the ground. There are boxes along the ditches. A farmer might knock one over, or mice chew through the lines. And then you don’t have service. 

The digital divide is very real in our area. There are people here who have never used a computer – so we help them. I feel that we’re the bridge; we’re the bridge so that people can live, have their life, do their homework, apply for a job, apply for a benefit, and schedule a doctor's appointment.

Vicki Carr Director South Macon Public Library

Vicki Carr

We want to be the hub of our community. To provide what they need. We meet them where they’re at. 

We have boosted our Wi-Fi, so that people can use it from the parking lot. The school uses smart tablets, for the kids to do homework. Lots of times, there will be parents with their kids in the parking lot, on our Wi-Fi, getting homework done. This is a good community to live in. People care about each other. That’s the nice thing about it. 

What is the origin story of the library?

Well, it started out as a mobile home, first as a bus that came to town. I remember that, as a little girl. It came in with the books. Then the citizens decided it should be something permanent – a mobile home, a single wide trailer. Books, part-time hours. Then area citizens fundraised, and 30 years ago built the library that we are in today. It was a labor of love for our community. We had several donations from very active members of the community – teachers were very involved. It really was a community effort. 

In terms of your own trajectory, how did you arrive at this work?

Well, first of all this is a part-time job; I have a full-time job, working for a legal publication, supervising court collections. I was on the library’s board, and have always been an active participant. When the past director, Kay Burrous, retired, I was asked if I wanted to take over as director. I don’t have a degree in library science or anything; but I do have an associate’s degree in business from Richland Community College, and in many ways this is similar to a business. I was raised where you give back, that’s part of life. I had served on the school board while my kids were growing up. And later I was approached to serve as a trustee on the community college board. It’s all part of the whole. I keep busy. 

SMPL Bird Seed Ornaments

Making ornaments using bird seed

SMPL Grinch Storytime

Grinch Storytime

What does success, or impact, look like to you? 

So, I had a young man come in. He was looking for a job. He said "I just heard from Steak ‘n Shake, that I need to fill out the application online by tomorrow. I know nothing about computers." We pulled it up and helped him with each section. He filled it out. Left. A week or two later, I went into the Steak ‘n Shake and met my son, who is a police officer. The young man I’d helped came over to wait on us and said “I got the job.” “Wouldn’t have gotten it without your help.” I can’t tell you how moving that was, in front of my son and husband. That is success. That is us doing our job. 

Anything else?

With the Illinois Humanities grant, we’ve hired someone to oversee programming. We have a partnership with the Macon County Health Department and want to do a diabetics class. She’ll help to facilitate that. Also, the Illinois Humanities application asked for our logo and we don’t have one. So, she contacted the arts teacher at the school district. The kids will create designs, and then we’ll have the community vote, and then present the winners to our board of directors. So, we’ll have a logo. There are only so many hours in the day, and these are things we wanted to do. 

About South Macon Public Library

South Macon Public Library began as a trailer on the main street of Macon but through hard work and fundraising 30 years ago the community was able to build the current building. Macon is a small town of 1,400 people situated south of Decatur, Illinois on Route 51. It is a rural farm community with many income-eligible/working-class families. 

The South Macon Public Library strives to meet the personal, educational, and recreational needs of each resident in the district by providing a wide variety of materials, specialized equipment, and access to technology. The Library's main goal is to be the community's hub and meet the residents' needs wherever they are.

The Library provides programming for the community including, kids, teens, and seniors via its book clubs, ladies' nights, kids' nights, and more.

Follow @SouthMaconPL on Facebook.
SMPL Front of Building

About the Grantee Partner Spotlight Series

Illinois Humanities highlights the work of our Grants partners through our monthly Grantee Partner Spotlight. It shines a light on our grantee partners' work and allows readers to get to know them better through a Q&A with members of the organization. Read more by browsing the "Grantee Partner Spotlight" series here.