At Ethnic Fest, Multicultural collection stands out

First festival held since library took over collection last year

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Last Saturday, community members celebrated the 37th Annual Ethnic Festival and World Languages Day at Julian Middle School, 416 S. Ridgeland Ave. The event was the first since District 97's Multicultural Collection was acquired by the Oak Park Public Library and moved from Julian to the Dole Branch Library, 255 Augusta St. 

Fittingly, the new multicultural-learning librarian was in attendance. Naomi Priddy manned a table showcasing some of the many cultural artifacts in the center's collection, including ceremonial elephants from Sri Lanka, a mask from Haiti and wooden toys from Poland. 

Priddy, who once taught fifth and sixth grade in Chicago, was hired full-time by the library in March. She said most of her job entails acting as something of a liaison between the library and the schools.

"Half of my time is outreach," she said. "I bring artifacts and materials into the schools that are available for checkout. I'm also available through appointment. I've been working with district leaders to talk about additional ways to have a real presence in the schools, such as showing displays."

Priddy credited longtime multicultural center director Lynn Allen with helping her ease into her new role.

"Lynn has been a great support during the transition," Priddy said. "The way she worked with teachers and the resources she gave them — we plan to carry on some of those things." 

Since the center's relocation to Dole, Priddy said, the library has updated the book collection. Going forward, she plans to grow the collection through donations and new purchases. She's currently conducting an inventory and an assessment of the collection. 

"I'm going through the collection and seeing where we have strengths and areas of growth, so I'll be making purchases based where we can make the collection a little deeper," she said. "If people are invested in donating, they can set up an appointment with me and share what they have, but they should be comfortable with the object being in circulation." 

All of the items in the center's collection are free for library card holders to check out, just as they would books. 

"All of the people who have borrowed artifacts so far have been really careful with them," Priddy said. "There are quite a few educators who use the collection. At Dole, there's this one girl who comes after school every Wednesday, takes home a different object and does research over the weekend. At the end of the week, she comes back and tells me about what it was she checked out."

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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