Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts and ideas at our listening sessions! More than 250 individuals participated, with in-person conversations and feedback forms completed in April, May, and June. Here’s more about the nine public listening sessions hosted by Executive Director Joslyn Bowling Dixon and additional library staff:
- We asked questions to gain more insights into three specific areas: library services for older adults (April), library spaces (May), and library-led programs (June).
- To have the widest reach, sessions were held in different locations: at the entrance to or directly outside library buildings and at community festivals (What’s Blooming on Harrison Street and A Day in Our Village).
- We prioritized conversation and took ample notes on flip chart paper. Patrons also provided thoughts in writing on both paper and online forms.
- A summary of your feedback follows. Read flip chart notes here (PDF) »
What you told us about services for older adults (60+)
- Borrowing materials, particularly physical materials (books, audiobooks, DVDs), was overwhelmingly the top library resource patrons named when asked how they use the library currently. A number of people did call out digital materials and online resources, noting the ease of accessing these materials and how their use of the library has shifted toward mostly or exclusively virtual since the COVID-19 pandemic. More popular resources included physical library spaces, visited as a destination for reading, viewing exhibits, working, or socializing; library programs and events; public technology, particularly computers, printers/copiers, and WiFi; and children’s resources for kids and grandkids.
- There was a mixed response in terms of whether they attend library-led programs—a larger percentage of the people we heard from said they do attend library programs compared to those who said they do not. For those who do attend programs, they said they participate because they enjoy the content, like to learn something new or be entertained, and, of particular value for older adult community members, enjoy the opportunity to socialize with other people. Among those who do not attend, they said they are not aware of programs being offered, are not available, or the program is offered at a time that is not ideal for them.
- Most community members get their news from print or online newspapers, with the most commonly named sources being The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Wednesday Journal. More popular sources include television (WGN, CNN, MSNBC, PBS), radio (WBEZ), and the internet.
- Multiple suggestions for improvements at the library were shared, with most ideas revolving around additional program and learning opportunities for older adults, as well as increased print materials. Community members were interested in more book groups, digital learning programs, film showings, history programs, and more virtual/hybrid program offerings, as well as programs with topics geared toward older adults (aging, end of life, isolation/loneliness). With regard to materials, the most commonly mentioned request was for the return of hard copy newspapers and magazines, and for more books and book recommendations.
What you told us about library spaces
- When asked which library physical spaces they use most often, the Main Library—particularly the Children’s Services area, meeting rooms, and study rooms—was named most often, followed by Maze and then Dole. Patrons who use the Maze Branch most commonly mentioned using this location to pick up item holds, for quiet study/work space, and for browsing. More than one person said the fiction selection at Maze is better than at Main. The Dole Branch was named least often by patrons. Those who use Dole most often mentioned accessing children’s resources and using this location because they are also accessing Park District of Oak Park programs and resources.
- To decide what library materials they want to borrow next, community members most commonly shared that they rely on browsing at the library and checking book displays. Other common responses included recommendations from other people (friends, family members, coworkers, librarians/library staff, book clubs); online reviews, articles, and book blogs; and browsing the Aspen catalog.
- With regard to library spaces, the most frequent suggestions from community members had to do with improving parking access at the Main Library (more spaces, removing fees) and improving library furniture (additional seating, more comfortable chairs). Other common suggestions included expanding open hours (opening Maze on Fridays) and creating more use-specific “zones” (more cozy reading areas, more zones designated for silence or for conversation).
What you told us about library-led programs
- When asked what library-led programs they have attended in the last year, many community members said they had not attended programs—59% of respondents fell into this category. The most common reason why was that they did not know what kinds of programs the library offers. Of those who had attended, they most frequently named storytimes, book clubs, and wellness programming (yoga, meditation), and they most frequently learned about available programs via library emails or oppl.org.
- When thinking about future programs that they would be most interested in participating in, community members named summer reading, technology, and gaming, and they overwhelmingly preferred in-person or hybrid (vs. virtual-only) formats.
- In terms of preferred days and times for attending library-led programs and events, community members were most interested in end-of-week (Thursday, Friday), weekends, and evenings. There was a relatively equal split between those who prefer weekdays only and those who prefer weekends only—though Saturday and Sunday were the most popular days mentioned overall. Time preferences were also fairly equal, with evening technically being the most popular and late afternoon the least.
Suggestions & no shortage of positive feedback
While the community members we heard from certainly had suggestions for library improvements, there was no shortage of positive feedback and appreciation for all that the library provides to Oak Park and, in particular, for the welcoming, caring, and helpful library staff that make all of it possible. A sample of community member comments is shown below:
“The library is my second home.”
“I think Oak Park Library is doing a great job with all your offerings!! I think you have great offerings for all ages and many programs for all ages together too.”
“OPPL is a five-star library in so many ways!! You all are doing so much! It’s really exciting. I’m very proud that OPPL continues to offer such amazing services.”
“What you do is so wonderful and important.”
“Every library should be like this.”