By Anna Lothson
Deirdre (Dee) Brennan, executive director of the Oak Park Public Library, announced her resignation last week.
Brennan, who will leave the library Dec. 31, will join the Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) as the organization's new executive director. The Oak Park Public Library Board of Trustees will begin the process of selecting her replacement at a special Nov. 12 meeting in an executive session.
Although Brennan will be stepping away from Oak Park, she said her new post will allow her the opportunity to have a larger impact on the field.
"The funding has been really uncertain at the state level, so I think this is a real opportune time to develop new services," Brennan said in an interview Monday. "I'm not moving on. I'm moving on to something that I think will help libraries like Oak Park."
In a news release about her resignation, the board recognized six years of accomplishments, which included the "significant strides she has taken in diversifying the library's programming, strengthening infrastructure, empowering internal teams, and engaging the Oak Park and larger library communities."
"[She] has achieved a lot in her tenure and will be missed. Thanks, in large part to her leadership, we have a lot to be proud of," said Lane Hart, the board president, according to the release. "We're a four-star library, and a member of SWAN, offering more than 1 million items to our cardholders. Just last month, the library was honored for its high service ratings by the National Citizens Survey."
According to the release, Oak Park Public Library's new strategic plan and 2013 annual budget are nearly complete, and the board remains committed to providing award-winning service to its community.
"We have every expectation that our plans will move forward and that our new executive director will provide excellent leadership moving our library into the future," Hart wrote. "We know library directors across the country have been taking note of our recent successes, and in many cases, following our example. We expect to have an impressive pool of applicants for the executive director position."
Citing the "great board, great staff and incredible community," Brennan said her decision to move on to a new challenge wasn't an easy one, but she still hopes to have an influence on library services.
"Because of the instability of funding and recent mergers, we've lost our edge," she said, referring to state funding cutbacks to public libraries. "It's time we get that back."
Previous to her post at the library, Brennan served as director of the Boston Regional Library System where she directed regional and statewide services for 103 libraries of different types. She also served as chair of the Illinois Library Association's Public Policy Committee and co-chair of the Future of Illinois Library Cooperation planning initiative, which assessed the future needs of Illinois libraries and residents.
"I've thoroughly enjoyed being here, and being a part of this community," Brennan wrote in the release. "Every day I see and hear firsthand how we're touching lives. Personally, this new opportunity at RAILS gives me the chance to help bring positive change to more libraries throughout Illinois, empowering more people with all that great libraries can offer them."