What kind of community do you want to live in?
The library follows a Harwood Community Conversation engagement model. Since 2014, we've been asking this question. And you have been telling us: one that values literacy and education; diversity, inclusion, and equity; and health, safety, and affordability. Below is a summary of our cardholders' email replies to this question (July through December 2017).
Putting aspirations into action
While the public knowledge we gain from these conversations drives all of our work, here are specific examples:
- We developed a new strategic plan, mission and vision for the library;
- We hired a social worker to build a team that better engages with all our patrons, including the most vulnerable; and
- We eliminated fines and opened more free public meeting space, to deliver more access and equity around library materials and services.
These changes reflect the kind of open and welcoming relationship we want to have with our community, and they support our vision and mission: to empower every voice in our community and to share the information, services, and opportunities that fulfill Oak Park's aspirations.
Host a conversation, learn more
- Contact David J. Seleb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 708.697.6911.
- How the library is turning outward >
- Oak Park Talks: First impressions (2014) >
- About the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation >
More about how we turn outward
For the library, turning outward touches everything we do, including helping to shape our strategic action plan, mission, and vision. Here are a few more examples:
Opening access and supporting equity ...
More than 1,000 Oak Park Public Library cardholders have re-engaged with us since the library went fine free on June 1. Whether it’s been to borrow new books, movies, or music, conduct online research, or use a library computer, this means about 1,000 people who weren’t using their local public library, for one reason or another, now are.
Sharing skills and knowledge ...
Librarian Rachael Bild visits the Oak Park and River Forest High School Library every Wednesday during the school year. As all of our librarians do, she focuses on a service area—in her case, service to high school students—to deliver in-depth research and support with related programming and resources, based on what students and teachers want from the library and expect to learn.
“Students, teachers, and administrators come to know Rachael and reach out to her with ideas and questions. It is important to all of us that our student patrons feel welcomed at both libraries.” – Ann Carlson, Oak Park and River Forest High School Librarian
Helping groups connect to take action in our community ...
We eliminated library meeting space rental fees for nonprofits in April. We also added another option for groups needing access to technology: the Main Library Computer Classroom. Now nonprofits like the Collaboration for Early Childhood can reserve it for free, as they did this summer for early childhood teachers going through a new state training and education requirement that’s mainly accessible only online.
“It is difficult for me to put into words what this means for my students, who do not have the technology or support that the library and the Collaboration are able to provide. This opportunity not only benefits our teachers but the children they serve as well.” – Diana Rosenbrock, Collaboration for Early Childhood
Supporting those touched by mental illness ...
We partnered on a family film screening and discussion at the library with the Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park Township and NAMI Metro-Suburban, a grassroots family and consumer self-help support, education, and advocacy organization serving west suburban Cook County.
“Everyone sees the library as a safe place to go, and when we talk about mental health it’s a scary topic. When we bring programs to the library, there is no stigma.” – Vanessa Matheny, Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park Township
Confronting challenges that marginalized populations face daily ...
The library’s More Than a Month team convened 12 community organizations and more than 50 attendees for a Social Justice Conference at the Main Library in April. Workshops and panel discussions explored criminal justice and sentencing disparities, education and health inequalities, and economic and political disenfranchisement, adding up to what one participant called “seven hours of revolution, solution, equity, and empathy.” Middle School Services Librarian Jose Cruz said the day helped build tighter networks across organizations, and led directly to this October’s Youth Social Justice Conference.