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Postcards from the windy city


By Abby Stocker

Fri, Jun 21st, 2013
Posted in All Columnists

Dear Readers,

Hello from Batavia, Illinois!

I have a confession: although my postcards are “from the Windy City,” I’m actually day-to-day living in the Chicagoland suburb of Batavia, about 45 minutes by car or an hour by train to downtown. Batavia is known as “the City of Energy” for two key reasons: one, that the city was the world’s leading producer of windmills by 1890 (many of which traveled with pioneers settling the West) and two, that Batavia is currently home to Fermilab, a high-energy particle physics laboratory named for Nobel laureate [and] physicist Enrico Fermi. (The receptor for some of their neutrino experiments is actually in northern Minnesota!) I’m looking forward to the Windmill City Festival in July, myself.

As I found out this past week, Batavia is also home to the Illinois Prairie Path bike trail and the Batavia Public Library. The Illinois Prairie Path, like the Root River Trail, was laid on the beds of the old railroad tracks. Like the Root River Trail, it’s surrounded by leafy green foliage, and besides numerous birds and chipmunks, I even saw small animals like rabbits on my ride.

Unlike the Root River Trail, the Illinois Prairie Path, or at least my route to the library, felt like a tunnel harboring the outdoorsy green in the midst of the surrounding suburbs. My ride was peppered with road crossings, glimpses of houses, and people everywhere: mowing lawns, driving on said roads, boating on the nearby river, visiting businesses, using the path itself. It still felt like a taste of home, and was a refreshing chance to get outdoors for awhile.

That is, I thought it was refreshing until I arrived at the library. Now, I love libraries of all sizes and appearances. A single bookshelf filled with my favorites is enough to make me blissfully content. But the Batavia Public Library, while not a huge library in the grand scheme of libraries, was still enough to leave me momentarily speechless. Built in 2002, it’s a place of spacious quiet, and many, many books. Over 126,000, according to the library’s website. Besides their own vast (to me) resources, they’re also part of a lending system similar to SELCO, meaning that readers can request books from any area library and have them delivered right to Batavia. Slick. Did I mention that they have a reading room with a fireplace, and all of my favorite movie adaptations of Jane Austen novels?

Biking home after my visit, I was still dazzled by the scope of Batavia’s library compared with what I’m used to. So many books, movies, magazines—you name it—right at my fingertips! But then I remembered that my “host mom,” so to speak, had mentioned that the library isn’t that large. She’s used to it. It’s all a matter of perspective, and whether you’re in Batavia or Chicago or Fillmore County, Minnesota, it’s what you do with what you have that matters.

Like if you have a large auditorium, maybe you should use it for Scottish country dancing... but I’ll leave that postcard for next week. Have a great week, and talk to you soon!

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