‘Rich in resources when we engage’

Did you know there’s a barbershop inside the Oak Park Public Library? Twice a month, the Main Library Idea Box brings in local barbers to give free haircuts to anyone who comes in. 

All are welcome, including children and teenagers.

And on Friday, May 17, from 2 to 6 pm, it’s turning into a space dedicated to teens in grades 11 and 12 going to prom. High schoolers who sign up can get free manicures and haircuts from local professionals before the big dance, plus style tips on being camera-ready. (Oak Park and River Forest High School’s prom is on Saturday, May 18.) Learn more and sign up »

Cuts, candid conversation

The most beautiful thing about the Main Library’s pop-up barbershop, says Josh Easter, is not the free, professional haircuts. It’s the conversation, and the way it unfolds.

“We do it in a circle, with talking pieces,” says Easter, one of two AmeriCorps members who facilitates the series in the Idea Box, located inside the Main Library entry vestibule. “Everyone gets to add something. In our barbershop, it’s always peaceful.”

Historically, the barbershop has played an important role in American culture. Besides being the place to get a fresh cut, barbershops are also traditionally known as spaces where conversations are candid and confidential, and all patrons have a voice.

While waiting for haircuts from local barbers, patrons share ideas and local resources and talk about their lives in a peace circle format.

“What we have seen take place in this safe space,” says Social Services Specialist Stephen Jackson, “is people realizing communities are rich in resources when we engage.”

A barbershop for all

The shop’s very first client was a woman, and in April, Children’s Services Librarian Beronica Puhr became one of the more than 100 people who had gotten haircuts since December.

“As a full-time employee who can never make it to salons, I’m so thankful this service was available,” Puhr says.

The series is tentatively scheduled to continue on the second and third Mondays throughout 2019.