Lending a hand: Interim Associate Director Sarah Hampson, left, and Oak Park Library Director Dee Brennan have been overseeing operations at River Forest Public Library until a new director is hired.Josh Hawkins/Staff photographer

Libraries are collaborators, not competitors, which is why the Oak Park Library is lending a hand to its River Forest counterpart while the latter searches for a new executive director.

River Forest’s previous director, Dawn Bussey, left the library in March to take the directorship at Glen Ellyn Public Library.

Under an intergovernmental agreement between the two libraries approved in April, Oak Park Library Director Deirdre Brennan will act as Interim Director for River Forest.

The libraries already work together in a number of ways: sharing resources through the Metropolitan Library System, networking, and trustees of both libraries meeting with other nearby communities.

Brennan will meet with the River Forest library board and provide her services at an hourly rate based on her salary at the Oak Park library.

She’ll spend about 10 hours a week consulting with the library for the next six months. She has also assisted them in their new director search, spoken with auditors, helped with a fundraiser and discussed staff hours, among other things.

“It’s been wonderful,” Samantha Cresswell, head of circulation, said about working with Brennan. “The staff here feels tremendously supported.”

Brennan said River Forest is interested in a director who is focused on quality service, understands the community, and can rearrange the library’s interior creatively.

There’s an option to renew her services if a new director isn’t found in the half-year period, which Brennan doesn’t anticipate happening.

Oak Park resident Sarah Hampson, former head of children services at the River Forest Library, will act as interim associate director. She has done library consulting in Illinois over the past two years since she left the library.

“I really love the library,” Hampson said. “I grew up in River Forest. I came here as a kid, and I’m very happy to be helping out as they search for a director.”

Library board President Mark Coe was on vacation and unavailable for comment for this article.

The agreement may lead to more cooperation between the two libraries. The larger Oak Park facility may provide human resource and technology services to the smaller River Forest library.

“The point is, libraries help each other,” Brennan said. “We don’t compete, and it seems like the right thing to do for a community that we already share many services and have a lot in common with.”

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