My Social Story at the Library
An in-house story illustrating how to use the Highland Park Public Library
A History of the Gerbils
Silver the Hamster
(1995 - 1996)
In the spring of 1995 the Youth Services Department accepted the donation of a long-haired hamster named Silver. He became an instant hit with the children even though, being nocturnal, he spent most of our open hours curled up asleep in his house. When Silver passed away a year later it was decided that we wanted to continue having a department pet, but that the new pets should be gerbils because they are awake and active on and off throughout the day.
Taffy and Licorice
(1996 - 1998)
Taffy was a standard brown gerbil and Licorice was a solid black gerbil. Unfortunately Licorice was not a healthy gerbil and he died about a month after we adopted him. Single gerbils require a lot of human attention and interaction, so Taffy was the only gerbil which we hand tamed. She was taken out of her tank on a daily basis and handled. She was also taught to come to the sound of a clicker and would roam around the Library in her exercise ball accompanied by a clicker and peanut packing staff member. She seemed to enjoy taking the elevator a lot.
Beezus and Ramona
(1998 - 2001)
Beezus was a black gerbil and Ramona was a standard brown gerbil. The tradition of children mailing vacation postcards to the gerbils began with them. A child drew a portrait of them which we hung on their tank and then a staff member sent a postcard. Soon more staff members and children were sending them mail and we would post the newest one on their tank and put the older ones into a three ring binder for people to enjoy.
Harry and Ron
(2001 - 2003)
Harry and Ron were our first "fancy" gerbils. Harry was a pied black with a lightning bolt shaped marking on his head and Ron was a red-head called an argente golden. They were a very relaxed pair who would have been happiest with a tiny couch, television set, and remote control.
Ruby and Rose
(2003 - 2006)
Ruby and Rose were doves, which meant they were pale grey gerbils with bright red eyes. They were very light sensitive and we had to put an opaque guard over their cage to protect them from the department's overhead lights. When they were about six months old they had an argument which resulted in violence. They had to be put into separate cages on opposite sides of our desk and could not even run around in their exercise balls at the same time without trying to start the fight up again.
Henry and Mudge and Family
(2006 - 2008)
Henry was a lilac gerbil, dark grey with redish eyes, and Mudge was a cinnamon gerbil, a dark gold. Although they were supposed to both be boys, we were a bit suspicious that they were not and our suspicions proved true when Mudge gave birth to 10 babies on November 27, 2006. We gave away all but three of the babies to staff members; keeping two males, Spot and Ribsy, and a female, Lassie. We had planned to move Henry, Spot and Ribsy to their own tank before the birth of the second litter, but Mudge had other plans and gave birth to 9 babies in the wee hours of January 2, 2007, a week earlier than expected! The boys moved to their new home two days later. We gave all of the second litter of babies away to children whose parents submitted requests for a pair of gerbils. Finally on February 11, 2007 Mudge gave birth to her last litter of 8 babies. Those gerbils were also given to some of our young patrons. Visit our YouTube channel to see movies of the babies.
Litter One: Big Happy Family
Litter One: Trying Solid Food
A baby at the cutest stage, when they are furry walnuts learning to eat solid food.
Litter Two: One Day Old
Litter Two on their first day. Before they get their fur in, baby gerbils are called "pinkies". Unlike a lot of rodents gerbils are very social. Here Henry, the dad, and two of the older siblings have come to nap with Mudge and the new babies.
Litter Two: Running Out of Room
The gerbils are big enough to go to new homes now, and a little too big for their favorite spaces!
Litter Three: Just Got Their Fur In
The third and final litter of babies with their fur just starting to come in.
Hickory, Dickory and Doc
(2008 - 2011)
Hickory with his brown and white spots was a pied agouti, Dickory was a Siamese as he had the same markings as a grey Siamese cat, and Doc was a dark grey slate. Hickory, Dickory and Doc were our first real "troublemakers". They figured out early on that if one gerbil held the wheel steady the other two could climb on top of it and chew on the cover of the tank. They had actually managed to make a small hole in the mesh of the top before the staff became smart enough to lower the wheel. Doc became ill and retired in the late summer of 2010, Hickory and Dickory stayed on and retired in March of 2011.
Arthur, Merlin and Lancelot
Because they looked so similar to their predecessors many patrons did not realize that these three were different gerbils, but they have distinct differences. Arthur, often mistaken for Hickory, was a standard brown gerbil not a pied agouti, Merlin was a black gerbil rather than a slate like Doc. Lancelot was a Siamese like Dickory. Arthur loved to run on the wheel, while Merlin was the chow hound and wound up twice the size a gerbil should be! Lancelot was the low man on the totem pole and was often ganged up on by Arthur and Merlin. Despite this bullying the three were avid cuddlers and preferred to sleep on their backs like humans which often concerned our patrons. In later life Arthur broke a tooth and required monthly dental treatments at the vet.
YankeeDoodle & Dandy
2013 - Present
YankeeDoodle and Dandy were born around the 4th of July, 2013. They are both topaz gerbils with medium golden fur and red eyes, but YankeeDoodle has grey ears and Dandy has pink. They are more shy and nocturnal than most of our previous gerbils, but when they are in the mood they will put on a good show, coming up to the glass to interact with the children or running on the wheel in tag team style. Pictures and short videos of them can be found on the gerbils' Instagram and Vine accounts.
Going on vacation? Visiting our page from out of town? The gerbils love to get postcards. We hang them on their tank and post them to their Google Map.
Youth Services Department
Highland Park Public Library
494 Laurel Ave.
Highland Park, IL 60035
A Brief History of the Youth Services Department
In 1960, an addition was built on the west side of the library forming the Children's Wing (later renamed the Youth Services Department). Originally the preschool area was at the front of the department and the young adult area was at the back. A 1991 renovation improved the lighting and flipped the department so that the young adults were now at the front of the department and the preschoolers were at the back in their own room. During the 1991 renovation a section of the original library's exterior wall was uncovered, complete with ivy. A window was added to the Inger Boye Children's Room so that our patrons could see this historic relic. In 2005 the Youth Services Department got a makeover with new paint, carpet and millwork. A slideshow of this renovation can be viewed here.
Inger Boye was the Children's Librarian for many years. She seemed to know every child and their reading tastes and would often hold books aside for them.
Joseph Eisenberg was a shelver in the Youth Services Department for years. His shelves were always perfectly lined up. He loved to tease Carol T. Muir. After his death his family donated a large globe in his memory.
Carol T. Muir was a Youth Services aide for many years. She always wore peter pan collared shirts with little pins at the throat. Carol died shortly after Joseph Eisenberg. Family and friends donated money and designed the stained glass art piece in the Inger Boye Room.
Beth Shadur is an artist whose works have been shown in the United States and abroad. She has created many public murals in both the United States and Great Britain. She teaches at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI. Her murals are hand painted and were designed specifically for the spaces they beautify. She created the fantasy mural on the north east wall of the Inger Boye Children’s Room in 1993, and added deer mural in our entry, the Inger Boye Children’s Room entryway and the nursery rhyme mural on the north wall in the summer of 2006 as part of our renovation.
Chao Huei J. Wang was the father of Library patrons. They donated the electronic bulletin board in his memory.
Ruth Buhai was a long-time Library Board member and at one time Library Board President. Her family donated the funds for our Book Club Collection in her honor when she retired from The Board.
Rotary International is a service club organization. Club members volunteer locally, nationally and internationally and work to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education, and eradicate polio. In 2006 the Highland Park chapter donated some of the funds necessary to update the Youth Services Department and create our literacy area.