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Listed below are library responses to misinformation about the library. Information is added frequently.
Last updated: December 6, 2022
A Library for Everyone
Joslyn Bowling Dixon, who began as the library’s executive director on November 7, 2022, is a graduate of Hampton University (BA, English) and Dominican University (MLIS). More »
During its 2022 search for a new executive director, trustees used a new executive director job description. Under Education, Experience, & Qualifications, required a candidate who, among other professional qualifications:
–Holds a Master of Library Science or other Master’s level administrative, social sciences, civic, and or policy-informed degree from an accredited university.
–Has a minimum of seven (7) years of progressively responsible experience in administration and staff supervision, including at least five (5) years of supervision of a public department or as a director or assistant director, with evidence of knowledge, expertise, and passion for library science and the functions of public libraries.
–Having had this experience directly in a public library is desired. A combination of education, professional, and lived experiences that demonstrate the ability to meet the requirements of the position successfully may be considered
–Holds a thorough knowledge of library principles, practices, techniques, materials, and technology in the field of library management and administration
The library’s leadership team is comprised of four degreed librarians and four non-librarians, all of whom have extensive experience in their specialty areas and who worked closely with the executive director.
It is through teamwork and a collaborative organizational approach that the library is able to serve its community and deliver the impact that it does today. See Evaluating Our Impact »
The request for proposal brought in 7 formal responses with price estimates ranging from $18,000 to $60,000. The final choice had a cost in middle of that range.
The library has been on a journey to be a library for everyone for quite some time, including entering into a formal, board-approved contract with RGW Consulting in late 2019 to work toward becoming an anti-racism organization. See how this journey has evolved since 2013 under the library’s current leadership »
Our library embraces a turning outward approach. This is an intentional process, a stance, for listening to and learning from our community. It also means we choose to ground library work in the community’s shared aspirations.
We have turned outward—listening, learning, and acting on feedback from library patrons, governmental peers, community members, and community partners—since 2014. People have shared their hopes, dreams, and emerging concerns. To date, shared aspirations include literacy, education, diversity, inclusion, equity, empathy, health, safety, and affordability.
Like all other agencies and organizations in the community, the library must identify and address how its policies, systems, programs, and services have been inequitable and have served to marginalize or oppress people, and then work to change them. Learn more about our anti-racism journey »
Your public library welcomes everyone, including those who are vulnerable, marginalized, or at-risk. We also connect people with the information and resources they need.
Our Public Safety Specialists prioritize people, respect, and dignity. They are trained to bring a trauma-informed care approach to conflict, and to help connect patrons with resources and social services.
Through relationships with approximately 45 Chicagoland organizations, including Housing Forward, Beyond Hunger, Rush University Medical Center, and Oak Park Township, the Social Services and Public Safety team refers people to appropriate resources, including those related to housing, employment, health, immigration, and domestic violence. Learn more about the Social Services and Public Safety team »
Other public libraries that employ social workers include those in San Francisco, Denver, and Washington, DC. “Around the nation, public libraries have become de facto community health centers for people who don’t have access to other resources,” said our Social Services and Public Safety Director Robert Simmons. Read more on this trend from NPR »
Putting people & safety first
Remote, virtual, and new safe, contact-free services were consistently delivered throughout the pandemic because library staff continued working—whether remotely from home, or behind the scenes in closed-to-the-public spaces.
See this building status timeline and read our year in review for more specifics.
Increased use of digital libraries is both a local and national trend. In Oak Park, digital collection use more than doubled in 2020. And across the nation, increased use of library websites and apps grew in all income categories.
When the pandemic forced the closure of all three library spaces on March 12, 2020, we knew Dole and Maze branches with their much smaller spaces and lower capacity limits would reopen after the Main Library. For one, it is very difficult to physically distance at 6 feet in these older buildings, ones that offer much cozier spaces for walking around, working, and gathering. Because of these limitations, we expanded home delivery and introduced resource delivery for local teachers. As pandemic conditions improved locally and restrictions lessened, we were able to safely reopen Maze Branch on April 19, 2021, and Dole Branch, the smallest of the three spaces, on July 5, 2021.
From June 15 to July 22, 2020, patrons had two options for contact-free materials pickup outside the Main Library: at the front door for walk-ups and in the Grove Avenue cul-de-sac for vehicles.
The underground parking garage was not a safe option for pickup for several reasons including materials location space, traffic flow, and outdoor air flow/ventilation.
Starting July 22, 2020, patrons were invited back into the Main Library to pick up their own holds, browse materials on all floors, and use computers by appointment.
When COVID-19 vaccines first became available, there was no formal federal, state, or local guidance regarding when public library workers would be vaccinated. In late March 2021, Illinois shared that public library employees could receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the government employee classification. Many Oak Park staff were then vaccinated through the Village of Oak Park Health Department in April and May. As of July 9, most library employees are fully vaccinated.
Sustainability & stewardship
The Oak Park library is committed to providing equity-based services to our community as outlined in our Vision, Mission, and Strategic Plans. Because of this, all collection decisions are rooted in equity, diversity, and inclusion. We further take the time to look at how we can meet community needs by providing the best access to the most people while keeping stewardship issues in mind. Collection decisions are made with intention and with the entire community in mind.
The library has slowly been moving away from print newspapers since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020. I’m not sure we would have made this decision, this soon if we had not had to pivot to more digital access to newspapers during the pandemic. But in today’s world, access to factual information is important and because news unfolds throughout the day, the up-to-date nature of online news sources makes access to them important to our community. To provide even more access, we added full online access to the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post in late July.
What we learned over the past two years is that community demand for digital newspapers is far greater than it has historically been for print newspapers. We have seen exponential growth in digital newspaper use and positive comments around 24/7 digital access to important information. This has been especially beneficial to patrons who are unable to visit the library to read a physical newspaper. Based on these factors we have intentionally decided to move away from physical newspapers (the Oak Leaves and Journal being the exception) at all library buildings in 2023. This decision will not change the budget we have in 2022 or require us to ask for an increase in 2023 funds dedicated to this change. We will be sharing this strategy at the August Board meeting. Please feel free to attend if you have further questions.
We empathize with the small number of library patrons who are using the physical paper, but we are serving a much larger, all ages, population with digital newspapers. To support all members of our community, we plan to commit resources to having dedicated computers for reading the paper in the library, classes on how to use the various newspaper sources, promotion of our website newspaper page, and promotion of our laptop and hotspots for people who do not have wifi access at home.
Implementing this collection strategy will provide the broadest access to the Oak Park community. It meets people where they are at and provides support for those who need it. We look forward to being able to provide the best access to information to our community through this plan.
Executive Director David J. Seleb’s last day leading the Oak Park Public Library was Friday, February 25, 2022. The Board of Library Trustees is currently conducting a search for the next executive director. Trustees are using regular and special board meetings to outline that process. Learn more at oppl.org/board.
The shared public space immediately outside the Main Library entrance is just that—public sidewalk space. While library-led programs may sometimes take place outdoors, anyone or any group may use or be in that area.
Solicitations outside the building are specifically addressed in the policy A Library for Everyone, Striving to Support Positive Experiences:
“Solicitations (support for political, charitable or other causes, not involving the solicitation of funds) outside of library spaces must follow Chapter 18 of the Village of Oak Park code; they are acceptable if they do not limit access to library entrances and exits, resources, and staff.”
The Park District of Oak Park controls formal use of Scoville Park, immediately east of the plaza sidewalk.
After the April 6, 2021, municipal election, there remained one vacant seat on the Board of Library Trustees.
Among four open seats, voters elected new trustee Madhurima Chakraborty and current trustees Matt Fruth and Sarah Glavin. Voters also elected candidate Saria Lofton, who had decided to drop out of the race before Election Day (but too late to have her name removed from the ballot).
At its May 25 regular board meeting, Board President Matt Fruth said the new board would decide on a process to fill the vacancy. The person appointed would then serve on the board until 2023 when a two-year term for that same seat will be on the ballot.
Following its May meeting, the library board began accepting applications for the open trustee seat via a brief online form available on the library website. By the June 15 deadline, 26 applications had been submitted. The two requirements to apply were age (at least 18 years old) and residency (live in Oak Park). Prior to the June 22 meeting, one applicant withdrew their name.
At June’s public virtual meeting, all 25 remaining applicants were invited to speak for up to five minutes about their interest in the position. After concluding regular business, the board entered a closed session for discussion. It returned to public session to vote unanimously to appoint Susanne Fairfax.
Following state law as a village library, the Oak Park library budget is submitted after library board approval as a levy resolution to the Village of Oak Park.
Between 2009 and 2019, the library’s tax levy request grew on average 2.37% each year and included a 10% reduction in the levy for library services in 2016.
A 2.37% increase represents an average increase of $11 per tax bill.
In 2021, the total levy request for library services declined 8.6% due to the final debt payment for the bond issued by referendum for the new 104,000-square-foot public library erected in 2003. Data compiled from the Cook County Clerk’s Office and Cook County Treasurer’s Office.
Each month, a financial narrative report accompanies disbursements, bank statements, and statements of income and expenses published on the library website at oppl.org/board (by year under the “Minutes and Agendas” section).
All board meetings are open to the public, recorded, and posted on the library’s website and YouTube page.
Audited financial statements from the year 2015 through 2020 also are available at oppl.org/budget.
Oak Park property owners currently pay roughly 4.8% of their total Cook County property tax bill to the library. Nearly all (99.6%) of the library’s operating budget comes from property taxes (0.2% comes from fees, and 0.2% comes from grants and gifts).
While it is true that nearly all (99.6%) of the library’s operating budget comes from property taxes, we are able to fund innovative projects and programs through grants and generous donations to our seven dedicated library funds.
For example, generous donations to the library’s Fallon Family Fund enabled us to launch Oak Park’s beloved Book Bike in 2015. And grant funding in 2020 allowed us to increase the number of WiFi hotspots and other devices we can lend to the community.
At the Main Library, we have steadily reduced energy usage by installing LED lightbulbs in the parking garage, lobby, and elevators. Overnight, we keep only about 20% of the building’s lights on—just enough so that our cleaning crew can work to make your experience the best it can be.
And in spring 2021, we made major lighting upgrades at the Main Library and Maze Branch, to reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency.
Learn more about the Main Library’s sustainable building design, including our green roof.