What’s the holdup at the library?

Books are cranking through the Oak Park Public Library a little slower, and a shortage in employees along with a surge in customers are to blame.

The library is down at least a couple of “shelvers” because of illness, promotions and staff turnover. And with a 10-percent uptick in circulation, it’s taking longer for books, CDs and DVDs to make their way from the drop-off point back to shelves.

“We circulate about 3,000 items a day, and any backup seems to be a lot of backup to the patron because they do tend to be the high-interest items that are checked out,” said Bonnie Strait, circulation services manager. “Our goal is to not have them be down here more than two days.”

The library is working to hire two new shelvers to help address the backup (they typically have about 30 part-time employees dedicated to that area). Oak Park has about 330,000 items in its system, and an annual circulation of about 1.2 million.

All that traffic brings another problem: theft. Libraries typically lose 2 percent of their books a year and 3 to 7 percent of CDs and DVDs. Director Dee Brennan said Oak Park is near the low end of that range. Oak Park is doing what it can to help address the problem.

“Unfortunately, every library experiences loss,” Brennan said. “It’s a very depressing thing to have to contemplate, but it’s true.”

A Wednesday Journal reporter requested a book last month, and it still hadn’t made its way from drop off to the shelf after a week. But Strait said that was a rare case.

“It’s a big job,” she said. “It’s always annoying when it’s the book you want, but it’s a small percentage.”

Shared birthday

Last week, on April Fools’ Day, we had some fun at the expense of Oak Park Trustee Ray Johnson (sorry, Ray). As it happens, his birthday was just two days later, April 3 (happy birthday, Ray), which also happens to be the birthday of Forest Park Mayor Tony Calderone. We hear they’re seven years apart, but we’re not sure in which direction. Presumably, Tony is older (sorry, Tony). That makes them both Aries, if you follow the Zodiac. We’re not sure if this influences their leadership or decision-making styles. Perhaps their fellow Aries can weigh in on the matter.

It also makes us wonder how many other public figures share birthdays.

Jane Hamilton’s masterpiece?

That remains to be seen (or read), but the Oak Park native has a new book out, Laura Rider’s Masterpiece, which certainly sounds intriguing. Described in the recent Book Table newsletter as her first “full-blown comedy,” it tells the story of a married couple who live on a farm nursery in Wisconsin, who each begin an e-mail correspondence with the host of a popular local radio show. Romantic entanglements no doubt ensue. The newsletter describes it as “funny, sexy and provocative.”

As it happens, Hamilton herself (an OPRF grad from the mid-1970s) lives in Wisconsin on a farm nursery with her husband, but though she frequently works elements from her actual life into her fiction, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s autobiographical.

They shall overcome

Those who have attended the Taize prayer service the last Friday of the last two months at Unity Temple experienced a strange confluence. In the quiet of their personal and communal meditation, about 7:50 p.m., the attendees heard the distant sound of someone singing “We Shall Overcome,” somewhere in the distance. Eerie, evocative and certainly mysterious. Social activism for peace meets meditators for peace.

Turns out it was coming from the front steps of First United Church of Oak Park, directly across Lake Street, where a longstanding peace vigil is held every Friday night from 7 to 8 p.m., same time as the Taize service. The peace vigil has been a regular feature of Lake Street life since the invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001.

The witness for peace group will be out there this Friday – Good Friday – for a special Service of Atonement for the War in Iraq. For the next Taize service at Unity, you’ll have to wait for the last Friday of April.

Elections past on glorious newsprint

For your viewing pleasure, we’ve assembled a slideshow of past Journal election week front pages on our Web site. Click here to see 

Here you’ll find history, drama, romance and bad puns. Well maybe not romance. But history tells us the Journal has never been able to resist a pun in a headline. Says nothing good about us.

With Frank Paris retiring as River Forest village president you will be spared any further variations on “Springtime for Paris.” However, no such promise that there won’t be a repeat of, we were told harshly, the sacrilegious “Oak Park gets new Pope” since David Pope is up for re-election this week.

Two of the front pages are actually from ELECTION EXTRAS we published. On paper. And handed out at the el stops. How wonderfully quaint.

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