The Work continues

By Joslyn Bowling Dixon, Executive Director

More than halfway through my first year as Oak Park Public Library’s executive director, I’m pleased to report back on what we’ve accomplished so far. As I said I would do in my initial job interview, I took ample time and great care to watch, review, observe, and listen before making any large-scale changes or updates.

Taking time and care to watch, review, observe, and listen

I’m happy to share that we are continuing community-driven work that focuses on our existing strategic priorities of equity and anti-racism, engagement, learning, and stewardship. 

In July, I made changes on our Leadership Team, including reintroducing a deputy director position. Under that role—which already manages more than 60 percent of library staff and the library’s public services and programming teams—we are adding our public-facing Creative Technology and Community Engagement teams for even tighter internal collaboration. 

Another notable change, as we begin the budgeting process for 2024, is to focus on equity and anti-racism as a free-standing entity, supported with its own independent budget.

Since my start as executive director in November 2022, I have been reviewing the library’s two current strategic plans and progress since. And in doing so, I have observed that the primary way we have been reporting on the library’s equity and anti-racism objectives is by tracking library-led public programs. This is a solid and highly visible place to start, and with the changes noted above, all of our library public services teams will continue to work tirelessly to create dynamic and inclusive public programs for everyone of all ages.

Where there is work to do

I see there is work to do related to what made the library’s anti-racism strategic plan so incredibly robust: internal and external actionable items addressing internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism. This includes work such as continuing education for staff and patrons, creating and sustaining safe places for dialogue, and providing access to resource guides, peace circles, book discussions, and more. Two factors—the pandemic and the eight-month interim period after the retirement of the library’s former executive director—contributed to implementation challenges. Now is the time to commit to new equity and anti-racism work, and to continue creating the community impact that has earned us a national reputation as leaders within our profession. 

As a Black female in the executive director chair—still a rarity in the library world—I never forget from whence I came, and the career and educational journey it took to get here. Anti-racism is an action I put into practice every day, with the intention of creating equitable pathways to career and continuing education opportunities for all library staff members.

What’s been accomplished so far

In fact, during the last six months of my tenure, working productively with the leadership team and library staff, here’s a recap of what we have accomplished related to internal satisfaction and library staff members overall:

  • 14 current library staff members have received promotions, ranging from entry-level to the Leadership Team level positions; these included 6 BIPOC staff and 8 white staff.
  • Promotions closely mirror current staff demographics percentages by race (46 percent BIPOC and 54 percent white), reflecting equity in promotional opportunities across teams.
  • 11 of 14 promotions are non-Masters in Library Sciences (MLIS) roles.
  • The employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) increased from 33 to 37. A score of 10-30 is considered good, and scores approaching 50 are considered excellent.
  • 55 staff members at all levels and representing all work teams, from Facilities to Finance, have attended 76 paid learning opportunities (training sessions, workshops, seminars, and conferences), including 14 who attended Joint Council of Librarians of Color in St. Pete Beach, Florida, and more than 30 who attended the American Library Association (ALA)’s Annual Conference in Chicago, many of whom were first-time attendees.
  • Tuition grants totaling $15,420 were awarded to nine staff members. These grants were for staff members to pursue certificates or degrees, such as a grant writing certificate, bachelor’s degree, and MLIS degree.
  • National recognition for workplace excellence: 2023 ALA Sustainability Roundtable Wellness in the Workplace Citation »

Looking ahead

In addition to these accomplishments, as we do every year, we will review pay equity across teams. In recent years we have focused on entry-level and manager positions; this year we will look at the leadership team to determine and establish pay equity benchmarks.

I am proud of the anti-racism and equity work our library has accomplished so far, and I am excited for the next chapter. We will never be “done” with striving to provide a culture that actively demonstrates that we are A Library For Everyone. 

The Work continues…

Joslyn Bowling-Dixon

About Joslyn

Joslyn Bowling Dixon is the Executive Director of Oak Park Public Library. Learn more about her 20+ years of urban and suburban public library experience »