Our Anti-Racism Journey

We have embarked on an anti-racism journey. We are intentional about this work, aware of how it touches everything we do, and how it supports our strategic efforts to:

  • Invite everyone into library spaces that are welcoming, safe, and inspiring.
  • Provide broad, effective, and equitable access to resources.
  • Attract and retain a library staff that reflects the diversity of our community.
  • Facilitate connections among diverse audiences through shared community aspirations and experiences.

As we continue to turn outward, we know we have work to do. This page includes information and resources we are using to get started. For questions or more information, contact the library’s executive director, David J. Seleb, at 708.697.6911 or at davids@oppl.org.

Anti-Racism Resource Challenge
Learn more and register to join the yearlong Challenge now »

A year-long approach to learning

Library staff, adults, and high schoolers are invited to join the Anti-Racism Resource Challenge, a new, self-guided program for intentional learning experiences that showcase specially selected books, media, articles, and websites from the library’s two Anti-Racism Resource Guides. The two guides include hundreds of materials grouped into two main themes: Anti-Racism: A Starter’s Guide and Countering Anti-Black Sentiments. The guides were curated with intention, passion, and focus by a cross-area team to provide library-wide representation.

BLM

Black Lives Matter

  • As your public library, we are committed as an organization and as individuals to dismantle the systems of oppression that have created, and that fuel, racist conditions. Read more »
  • As a member of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, a consortium whose mission is to connect all who seek to document, share, understand, and preserve Black experiences, we affirm that Black lives, Black stories, and Black collections matter. See “Protest in the Archives” and “Collections on Black Experiences.”
  • As members of the American Library Association, we accept and acknowledge the organization’s role in upholding unjust systems of racism and discrimination against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color within the association and the profession. Read more »

How this journey began

This journey began in early 2020 with Reesheda Graham Washington & RGW Consulting, LLC, whose international experience and local understanding make her uniquely positioned to support the library in launching this work. To learn more about how this collaborative relationship, contact the library’s Executive Director David J. Seleb.

Established a Black staff affinity group

Based on Washington’s recommended anti-racism trajectory report for our library, one of our first priorities was to establish a Black staff affinity group, which began in June 2020. This group now gathers monthly, providing a safe space where members can ultimately feel comfortable convening themselves and setting their own objectives.

Formed an Anti-Racism Advisory Team

Another recommendation—and priority—was to convene a cross-section of stakeholders (administrators, staff, patrons, board representation, and young adults) who would work together to develop new protocols that shape the library’s strategic direction. Working with RGW Consulting to develop this team, the library publicly shared in June 2020 the names of the proposed candidates and received community feedback.

Today, these individuals meet regularly as members of the library’s Anti-Racism Advisory Team. We are both invigorated by and hopeful about each member’s willingness to continue to participate in what we expect will be a challenging yet fortifying road.

  • Aaron Alonzo, Manager of Public Safety, Oak Park Public Library
  • LeVar Ammons, Executive Director of Equity & Student Success, District 200
  • Virginia Bloom, Oak Park Public Library Trustee
  • Reesheda Graham Washington, CEO, RGW Consulting, LLC
  • Juanta Griffin, Multicultural Learning Coordinator, Oak Park Public Library
  • Stephen Jackson, Manager of Teen Services, Oak Park Public Library
  • Chloe Leach, member, Revolutionary Oak Park Youth Action League (ROYAL); student, Oak Park and River Forest High School
  • David J. Seleb, Executive Director, Oak Park Public Library
  • Tatiana Swancy, Adult Services Specialist, Oak Park Public Library
  • Sarah Yale, Manager of Community Engagement, Oak Park Public Library

Staff learning, the journey continues

In 2020, staff training began with the library’s seven-member leadership team participating in four three-hour sessions on posturing, developing a shared language, and creating conditions for anti-racism work. Similar topics were brought to all library staff in two three-hour training sessions held in August and December.

To summarize the first year’s work in his own words, the library’s Director of Social Services and Safety Robert Simmons authored a blog post for the Urban Library Council, which was adapted and posted locally. Read Rob’s blog post now»

Looking ahead in 2021, the library’s 13-member management team will gather for training similar to the leadership team’s in 2020. In addition, all library staff are invited to two three-hour sessions in June and December.

Stay current on news and new arrivals.

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