March 16, 2024: An important message from the Oak Park Public Library Board of Trustees

This is an updated version of the statement that was read at the conclusion of the March 16 Special Board Meeting. Watch the meeting here.

At a special meeting today, with regret, the Oak Park Public Library Board of Trustees voted to terminate the employment of Executive Director Joslyn Bowling Dixon, who joined the Library in November 2022 after a national search. To be clear, we continue to have great respect for Ms. Bowling Dixon’s professional credentials and expertise as a library professional, and wish her well in her future endeavors. 

While we have heard and deliberately considered the extensive staff and community input received over recent weeks—both positive and negative—regarding the day-to-day management, decision-making and operations of the Library, this difficult decision was not based on any one incident or action. Rather, it was a consistent pattern, observed over many months, of a persistent lack of alignment between the priorities of the Board and the Executive Director that prompted this decision. Simply put, the supportive and collaborative working relationship between us, which is absolutely essential to advance the strategic vision and plan based on the needs of our community, has been damaged. The resulting confusion, miscommunication and distrust, both internally and externally, has critically impacted our ability to move forward together and prompted today’s action. 

We are committed to minimizing the adverse impact of this transition for library staff and community, and are taking immediate and deliberate steps to set us on a path toward healing and rebuilding trust: 

  • The Board will engage an independent expert to conduct a forward-looking survey of all Library staff to identify opportunities to strengthen and improve our workplace culture. We hope to invite a firm/individual to attend a special meeting of our Board to be scheduled in April to present a recommended strategic approach and timeline to complete this important work.
  • Two experienced leaders from the Library’s leadership team, Deputy Director Suzy Wulf and Director of Collections Leigh Tarullo, will work collaboratively, on a short-term basis, to provide day-to-day leadership of the Library. It is not the Board’s role, nor does it expect, to direct further personnel changes. Suzy and Leigh will work to support each Library team through this transition. 
  • The Board will work with haste to identify an experienced library professional to join our team as an interim executive director—ideally, by the April 23 Board meeting. Based on feedback from Library leadership, we will be seeking external candidates for this role. In addition to directing all Library operations, this individual will also direct the following Board priorities:
    • An analysis of the Library’s FOIA policy and current practices to affirm that they are consistent and responsive.
    • An internal review to gain a better understanding of the Library’s actions regarding the planning and implementation of the Palestinian Cultural Event held in January 2024. We want to be sure that our protocols and procedures for community events and facility usage/rentals moving forward are clear, consistent and fair.  
  • Finally, it is our intent to initiate a national search to identify our next executive director. This process will include extensive opportunities for both staff and community participation. We will share more details in the coming weeks.

We know that you are counting on us to act expeditiously to address the issues facing our beloved Library, to support our valued employees, and to ensure that we consistently act in accordance with our shared mission and values. The Board is committed to providing periodic updates to staff (through Leadership) and our community. We take this responsibility very seriously and will move forward in a manner that maintains the standards of excellence, openness, and equity for which our organization is known and that we all value.

The Oak Park Public Library Board of Trustees

Matthew Fruth, President

Virginia Bloom, Vice President

Madhurima Chakraborty

Susanne Fairfax

Theodore N. Foss

Maya L. Ganguly

Kristina Rogers