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This report shares highlights of the Oak Park Public Library’s work focused on community engagement, learning, and stewardship, the library’s three strategic priorities. It summarizes impact around actions we’ve taken, what we’ve learned from Oak Park, and where the library is heading in 2018—all intentional efforts to empower every voice in our community and to share the information, services, and opportunities that fulfill Oak Park’s aspirations. Read the library’s 2018 strategic plan and the 2018 budget and audited financial statements on oppl.org.

Opening image: Central Oak Park, as seen looking east onto Scoville Park from the Main Librarys third floor. An estimated 4,000 community members had gathered to (safely) gaze at the August 21 solar eclipse. This (we’d like to think) was much in thanks to the 1,000 pairs of eclipse glasses we distributed that met requirements for ISO 12312-2:2015 certification. The special glasses were given to us as part of a grant through starnetlibraries.org.

We re-engaged more than 1,700 Oak Park Public Library cardholders since eliminating fines for overdue materials.

As of June 1, late fines were a thing of the past. Why? “Policies should define how the library wants to interact with the community, said Executive Director David J. Seleb. “And this policy change is focused on access and equity. Overdue fines are a regressive method of raising revenue; they hurt the most those who can afford them the least, create stress-filled interactions, and require significant amounts of staff time to manage.” Read more about these changes to improve use, access, and equity around library resources >

“Fine free has proven to be a popular policy change with all patrons. Months later, it continues to be heartwarming to hear from those who were least able to manage under our previous policy that this is working out so much better for them. It’s also great to welcome people back, patrons who had stopped using the library who now feel able to come in again and borrow materials. To this day, people will stop and tell us how proud they are to live in a village where the library embraces progressive, inclusive policy decisions.” —Manager of Branch and Access Services Martyn Churchouse

Do you have an experience to share related to the removal of overdue fines? Tell us now >

Neighborhood Services Librarian Sarah Yale shares titles from Oak Park’s Book Bike during one of 104 area visits this summer. More: oppl.org/bike

We actively listened to hundreds of patrons, peers, and partners, learning more about shared aspirations and emerging concerns.

What kind of community do you want to live in? We keep asking you this question because your aspirations drive our work. The hundreds of people who responded in 2017 told us they continue to value literacy and education; diversity, inclusion, and equity; and health, safety, and affordability. But they also revealed an increased anxiety, as well as a desire to act with greater speed and a determination to make greater progress.

People commented on an increasing concern around the rising cost of living, rising taxes, threats to safety and property and a lack of awareness—about what is happening in and around the community—and a perceived lack of people actively working together to achieve progress. Barriers mentioned included a coarsening of culture and a lack of empathy.

Frequently, people talked about the gap they saw between perception and reality around inclusion and equity. There also was a measure of discouragement about the ways government leaders and stakeholders worked with and communicated with the community.

Please join the conversation! Weigh in on what we heard in 2017 from your neighbors and let your voice be heard now >

In 2017, the library’s first artist in residence Luis Tubens supported students in grades 6–12, empowering them with activities aimed at developing creative and critical thinking skills through creative writing workshops, spoken-word performances, and competitive chess sessions.

We welcomed more than 100 new community organizations after opening up the library’s meeting space policy.

More free spaces to connect and to learn using public resources. Meeting room renters had long shared with us the fact that fees for space rentals limited, and even prohibited, their library use. So we responded. In late April, the Board of Library Trustees updated policy to eliminate costs for not-for-profit organizations and to allow anyone with any public library card to reserve a public library meeting space.

Said Oak Parker Francine O’Conner: “Regarding the fee removal for nonprofits? We are very glad for it. Veterans for Unification is a local group with a very small bank account. We are also composed of generally older members, so the elevators and indoor parking are definitely a plus for us.”

Do you want to learn more about reserving a free, public meeting space at your library? Let’s get started >

“The library has made itself a business destination, with seminars for business people and as a host of the Chamber’s Business After Hours events,” said Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce Program Coordinator Mark Walden. It also hosted the Chamber’s Working From Home Affinity and Women in Business groups. And for those who work outside a traditional office, the library offered a monthly co-working space called Co-working Commons. More: oppl.org/business

Thank You, Donors and Friends

When you give locally, you choose to share a gift that nurtures ideas, spreads knowledge in and around Oak Park, and supports civic engagement. You support freedoms to read, to learn, and to individual privacy. Your local loyalty and generosity help a 113-year-old institution, dedicated to literacy and community connection, continue to be accessible to all. Learn more about giving to the library >

We are grateful to the Friends of the Oak Park Public Library who, as a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, raise funds for the library and make community connections. Join our Friends anytime by choosing the annual tax-deductible membership level that’s best for you.

  • SCOVILLE CIRCLE ($1,000+): Joseph and Judy Larscheid
  • BENEFACTORS ($100-$499): Michelle Barnes, Philomena and David Boulanger, Paul Buchbinder, Nancy Clark, Joan Fiscella, Juanita Flagler, Nancy Hartman, Paul and Patricia Koko, Henry Kranz, Roy and Marie Kruse, Byron and Audrey Williams Lee, Kim and Gary McCullough, Joseph McDonald, Melissa Mickelberry, Walter and Arlene Mikol, Larry and Carole Mitchener, Bill and Elaine Moor, Mary Morrison, Donna Myers, Don Nekrosius, Robert Nied, Jr., Lynne and Rick Palmore, Allen and Georga Parchem, Viktoras L. Petroliunas, Renee Pleshar, Sheila Pont, Don Babwin and Joan Radovich, David and Sandra Sokol, Brandon Spurlock, Derek and Antonieta Garcia-Strain, James Strait, Charles Strizak, Barbara Purington and Chet Taranowski, and Carol Wiiken
  • DONORS ($50-$99): Paul and Barbara Ahlf, Marilyn Cantisano, Laura Stefanic, Ira Allen Bartfel, Joel and Robyn D’Alba, Victoria Ferrera, Elinor Hamer-Crane, Robert and Dorothy Hetzel, Janet Kelenson, Rob and Eileen Kleps, Frances Knechel, Eleanor Marquez, Pete Mavrelis, Barbara Mayes, Richard and Joan Meister, Mary Jo Msall, Ron O’Brien, Neal and Barbara Peyser, Robert and Joan Pope, Mrs. Gloria A. Rayburn, Kathy Rush, Kenneth and Peggy Sinko, Gordon Waldron, and Robert and Marietta Walsh
  • PATRONS ($25-$49): Rich and Doris Adamczewski, Vicki Bielanski, Susan Burke, Brian Chan, Jason Chong, John Cooper, Marsha Cooper, Mary Therese Donnelly, Daniel Efner, Fran Fogarty, Delphine Furtaw, Cheryl Gandolfi, Leticia Gonzalez, Brian Hansen, Kathy Ivsin, Michael Kainins, Chris Keeperman, Elizabeth Keeperman, Paul Lydon, Mr. and Mrs. David McMullin, Bill and Gloria Merrill, Dianne Olson, Jeffrey and Magda Piper, Melanie Pivarski, Mary Ann Porucznik, Ken Putzy, James Robinson-Parran, Sarah Rodriguez, Daniel Rosser, James Sadowski, Andra Schroeder, Robert Setik, Susanne Smith, Alan Solid, Charles H. Stats, Janet Steiner, Jack and Nancy Strand, Sally Tyc, Mary Umberger, Dr. Marsha Vetter, Karen Walsh, Suzanne Wells, and Dr. Mark Woodworth
  • ANNUAL CONTRIBUTORS: Oak Park Elementary School District 97 employees

There are more stories of engagement, learning, and stewardship than we can include in this report. Each month, we experience 60,000 library visits and 400 in-the-community interactions in Oak Park. But you know we love to share, so...

Read more 2017 highlights now >

Our vision is to empower every voice in our community.

Our mission is to share the information, services, and opportunities that fulfill Oak Park’s aspirations.

Throughout 2018, we will continue to learn from and act on what our community tells us it needs to thrive. We want to hear from you. Please join the conversation at oppl.org/listen. –Executive Director David J. Seleb

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