The Oak Park Public Library Board of Trustees approved the appointment of Deirdre “Dee” Brennan, the current chief of public services for the Boston Public Library, to the position of executive director at the July 5 board meeting. The appointment passed with a vote of 5-1, with Trustee John Hayes casting the dissenting vote. The other five trustees expressed enthusiasm for the new director, while emphasizing the difficulty of the decision process due to an applicant pool of 30 candidates, and the presence of a qualified internal candidate, current Assistant Director James Madigan.

“It was a bottoms-up process,” said Board Vice President Mila Tellez, “which means everyone from the maintenance man to the circulation librarian to the shelver who’s part time had input in this process.” Deanne Leonard, like most of the other trustees, stressed the length and thoroughness of the process. “We interviewed a lot of good candidates,” she noted. “We interviewed some three or four times.”

Brennan has spent six years in the Boston Public Library system, where she “held a series of senior leadership positions,” according to the board’s press release. Prior to joining the Boston system, Brennan was director of the Reading (Mass.) Public Library for nine years. She also was president of the Massachusetts Library Association from 1998 to 1999.

The trustees voiced high expectations for the new executive director. “We can expect a great sensitivity to customer input and requests,” said Board President Janet Kelenson, “regarding services, programming, and other things we offer to the community.” Tellez expressed equal enthusiasm. “We hope she will bring national exposure to the library,” Tellez said, “so we would have renowned authors who would come in and we would see Oak Park Library as ‘up there.'”

Hayes articulated his opposition to the candidate, but said he respected the process and the board’s decision. “With all the candidates we used the same process,” he reflected. “There was a difference of opinion, but there’s nothing wrong with that.”

“It was really difficult too because we had an incumbent,” Leonard noted, “but I think everyone really came to consensus in good stead.”

–Brendan Goldman

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