Access, democracy, and community connection

Opinion: Columns

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By David Seleb

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Since going fine-free on June 1, more than 1,000 Oak Park Public Library cardholders have re-engaged with us. Whether it was to borrow new books, movies, or music, conduct online research, or use a library computer, this means about 1,000 people who were not using their local public library for one reason or another are using it now.

And since mid-June, more than 40,000 items have been automatically renewed for Oak Park cardholders. Which means patrons are getting more time, and hopefully more value, from the materials they borrow.

Why does this matter?

Because better access to library materials and resources impacts all of us.

Access to information, public disclosure, deliberation, civic engagement, and opportunities for everyone to connect, to share, to work toward a better future — these are the values to which we commit ourselves. Public libraries uphold these ideals and values to help citizens be better informed, to provide assistance in separating fact from fiction, and to make education and skill development affordable for everyone.

We are driven by what you want for yourselves and for your community. That's why your library will continue to ask, "What kind of community do you want to live in?"

You are invited to move your community forward. This fall, please save a date to attend a Harwood Community Conversation at the library:

 Sept. 18 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Main Library, 834 Lake St.

 Oct. 18 from 12 to 2 p.m. at Maze Branch, 845 S. Gunderson Ave.

 Oct. 19 from 12 to 2 p.m. at Dole Branch, 255 N. Augusta St.

 Nov. 9 from 6 to 9 p.m. again at the Main Library.

Come together with 10-15 of your neighbors to talk about Oak Park and how best to move our community forward. Through these 90-minute "kitchen table conversations" we gain public knowledge about community aspirations using a time-tested discussion guide.

Why is the library hosting these conversations?

Because we are a democratic institution that strives to empower every voice in our community, and to share the information, services, and opportunities that fulfill Oak Park's aspirations. Your library ensures access to information and lifelong learning regardless of age, education, ethnicity, gender, language, income, physical limitations or geographic barriers.

Thank you for using your public library. Please know we hope to see you soon!

David J. Seleb is the executive director of the Oak Park Public Library. To learn more about the impact libraries are making across the nation, search #LifeLibertyLibraries. To learn more about local Harwood Community Conversations or to host an on-site conversation, contact David at d.seleb@oppl.org.

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