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About the COVID-19 pandemic
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.
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.
With small spaces and low capacity limits, Dole and Maze branches have been closed since March 12, 2020. 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.
We understand that closing these branch buildings has been hard on some residents. It’s one reason we expanded home delivery and introduced resource delivery for local teachers. But we also know that, in a typical year, the Main Library accounts for the majority of all patron visits and physical item circulation.
Maze Branch expected to reopen April 19
As restrictions lessen and more vaccine appointments become available, we are now working through what limited services can be safely reintroduced at the branches.
On March 26, we announced our plans to reopen Maze Branch for limited hours and services starting Monday, April 19. See the plans to reopen Maze Branch »
Dole Branch, because of its even smaller square footage and lower safe occupancy numbers, will remain closed at this time. We will continue to monitor closely factors such as the local infection rate and the completion of vaccinations of library staff members to determine when in-person services will resume.
From June 15 to July 22, 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, patrons were invited back into the Main Library to pick up their own holds, browse materials on all floors, and use computers by appointment.
Equity and social justice are Oak Park community aspirations and priorities. The library is at the center of the life of the Oak Park community. As such, it is a priority for the library to focus on these matters.
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 »
As of March 22, Oak Park library workers are prioritized as government workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Illinois.
The library has strongly encouraged its staff to be vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. The library also has been advised by employment counsel to not implement a mandatory vaccine policy due to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the current vaccines under their Emergency Use Authorization rather than full FDA approval. Of course, once the vaccines receive full FDA approval, the library may change its current course of action.
However, as of now, there is no accurate way to ensure the public that all library employees will be vaccinated by a specific date.
About finances and tax levies
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).
About the April 6 election
After Tuesday, April 6’s municipal election, there remains one vacancy 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).
Board President Matt Fruth had stated that, at the May 25 board meeting, the new board will decide on a process for filling the vacancy. The person who fills the vacancy will serve until 2023 when a two-year term will be on the ballot.
Read more in the Wednesday Journal: