Dedicating more to Oak Park’s history

As it widens access to early Ernest Hemingway artifacts, the library is now devoting even more resources to its Special Collections.

For the first time in its 113-year history, the library is dedicating a full-time staff position exclusively to its Special Collections, which include Hemingway artifacts owned by The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park and the library, plus rare editions, correspondence, and photographs from local figures including Edgar Rice Burroughs, Frank Lloyd Wright, Carol Shields, and Philander Barclay.

Leigh A. Tarullo (pictured above) is now the library’s new full-time Curator of Special Collections. Previously, Tarullo held the combined position of Assistant Manager of Adult and Teen Services and Special Collections Curator at the library since 2009. Later this year, the library also plans to hire a full-time archivist.

“Our strategic priority of stewardship in part calls for the care and curation of our community’s history, historic artifacts, and local content,” says Executive Director David J. Seleb. “With this appointment, Leigh will focus her time and energy on that important work.”

A ‘pivotal moment’

Calling this a “pivotal moment” for Special Collections, Tarullo says she is excited to continue the momentum created by an $86,900 grant from Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White, which is allowing the library to digitize and provide online access to rare artifacts from both The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park and the library. Digitized artifacts now online in the Illinois Digital Archives include rarely seen snapshots, family scrapbooks, school assignments, and mementos illustrating the early lives of Ernest and his older sister Marcelline Hemingway in Oak Park.

“It’s so important for Oak Parkers to have access to the information and stories of our past, ones that encourage and support our local experience,” Tarullo says. “It’s important for us to see that the Hemingways were real people, and that their experience in this community is a lasting part of our shared local heritage. We’re all getting a richer, deeper understanding of who Ernest Hemingway was, as a son, a brother, a student, and a boy in early 20th-century Oak Park.”

Tarullo, who has worked at the library since 2002, says she will continue to explore funding opportunities, focus on the work of digitization, and build local and national partnerships.

“Our partnership with The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park allows for preservation and access to the Hemingway archives,” she says. “I want to expand on that by growing our relationships with The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest as well as the Illinois Digital Archives, the Digital Public Library of America, and Chicago Collections, to increase accessibility to our collections and make them more widely available nationally and internationally.”

Alexandra Skinner

New Adult and Teen Services Assistant Manager

Assuming the role of Assistant Manager for Adult and Teen Services is Librarian Alexandra Skinner, who Seleb says “has demonstrated through her hard work, commitment, and leadership that she is more than prepared for the important responsibilities this new role will present.”

In her new role, Skinner will oversee all adult and teen services for the library. Skinner has worked at the library as a Reference Librarian since 2012, focusing on humanities, local history, and Special Collections.

“As a resident and librarian in Oak Park, I love getting to explore our vibrant and rich history through all the great research questions we get,” Skinner says. “Librarians love matching people with resources, and I’m excited about our staff doing that in all sorts of new and creative ways. I’m also excited to help our staff thrive and get out into the Oak Park community. Through community partnerships, programs, and library resources, we are here, and out in the community, to help!”