Christine Poreba is the library’s new Environmental Programming Specialist. In this position, she helps connect people to resources, information, programs, and community groups focused on sustainability.
A poet and former teacher, Poreba has been working for the library since last May. As she shifts into this new role, she’s taking on an area of strategic importance and helping to fill an increasing need in the community.
“Dedicating a staffer to environmental and sustainability programming and information is something we’ve been interested in for a long time,” said Manager of Adult Services Alexandra Skinner. “Since last year, the need for a position that focused on these issues has become clearer than ever before.”
Last summer, the library began working more closely with the Village’s sustainability office, including on the Climate Ready Oak Park plan. (In fact, Skinner won one of the Village’s 14 Green Awards in February, partly for her work to support the plan.) Library staff also attend local community group PlanIt Green meetings, and the library has been receiving more proposals to host environmental programs.
“We are excited to be reaching this point on environmental and sustainability issues to now have a position with this focus,” Skinner said.
‘I can work to ensure diverse voices are heard’
Poreba said she is curious about a whole range of issues and especially interested in finding out what people in Oak Park are looking for.
“I’ve already heard people saying they want to understand solar power better, for example, or they’re having frustration with recycling,” she said. “I really want to combine a lot of different aspects, in terms of providing information and connecting people with resources.”
When Poreba moved to Oak Park in 2020, she found herself drawn to library work. Previously she had been living in Florida, where she taught adults from many countries English as a second language. One of her classes was held in a room at a public library, and she loved the atmosphere.
“I love helping connect people to resources,” she said, “and it dawned on me that working in a library would be an excellent match for my background and skills.
“I realized, when I was teaching privately online after we first moved, how much I missed building something. Because teaching, you know, you’re creating lesson plans on different topics, building classroom community, and planning schoolwide events. And I really loved that feeling of community and collaboration, and I think I’m a really good listener.”
She added: “I’m excited that this position will give me an opportunity to apply the library’s anti-racist lens to the areas of sustainability and the environment. I am honored to be in a role where I can work to ensure diverse voices are heard and want my programming to span a range of topics as manifold as our community.”
What she’s reading (plus drawing & writing)
The Story of More
Poreba is currently reading The Story of More by Hope Jahren and recommends it. The book “illuminates the link between our consumption habits and our endangered earth, showing us how we can use less and share more,” according to the publisher. “It is the essential pocket primer on climate change that will leave an indelible impact on everyone who reads it.”
Keeping a Nature Journal
Although she didn’t have a name for it then, when she lived in Florida she would do quick daily sketches of a hydrangea in her yard and write poetry.
“I find the visual attention I pay to something when I’m sketching helps loosen me up creatively, so I often start my writing practice with some drawing,” she said.
Then, while working last fall at Dole Branch, she came across the book Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You. After that, she got a journal with blank pages and started sketching nature through the seasons.
“In the fall I used a lot of watercolor and colored pencils and started learning the shapes and types of leaves,” she said. “In winter it was mostly ink and gray pencil. I guess now it will begin to have color again. I also sometimes keep track of sunrise and sunset times, weather patterns, and so on, in there.”
Rough Knowledge in Oak Park Creates
Poreba’s first book of poetry, Rough Knowledge, is part of the Oak Park Creates collection. And she’s currently working on a manuscript for a fourth book of poetry.
“Memory and language are big themes,” she said. “I am interested in how poetry allows us to tap into the emotional life that’s kind of just below the surface in everyday life and gives both writer and reader a sustained moment of attention.”
Upcoming environmental & sustainability programs
Speaking for Earth: Poetry Reading & Discussion on Climate Crisis. Tuesday, May 9, 5-6 pm, Main Library. Poet Hila Ratzabi will read from her debut book of environmental poetry, There Are Still Woods, and lead a discussion and creative writing exercise on how we can respond to the climate crisis. A representative from the Village of Oak Park Office of Sustainability and Resilience will share updates on local efforts to respond to the climate crisis and invite the community to get involved. Register »
Reducing Waste and Recycling Right. June 1, 7-8 pm, Maze Branch. The Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability’s Community Outreach Coordinator Kate Carney will discuss ways to create less waste and how to recycle various household materials. Learn where your trash and recyclables go when they leave your home and get some guidelines to follow when making decisions on how to dispose of items. A Q&A session will follow. Register »
Basics and Benefits of Electric Cars. June 29, 6:30-7:30 pm (virtual). The Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability’s Community Outreach Coordinator Kate Carney will discuss the basics of electric vehicles (EV). Learn about the benefits of EVs and find out how some common myths about EVs are not telling the full story. A Q&A session will follow. Register »
Also on her list of ideas for future programs are nature appreciation, upcycled crafts, climate justice–related events, and collaborations with places and organizations in the community.