The Oak Park Public Library (OPPL) Board of Trustees appointed writer and filmmaker Susanne Fairfax to fill the trustee seat vacated by Saria Lofton, the candidate that won the position in the April 6 municipal election but effectively resigned by not participating in the board’s swearing in ceremony. Fairfax was among 26 applicants vying to fill the vacancy – an unexpectedly large candidate pool.
“It was a surprise to all of us,” library board president Matt Fruth told Wednesday Journal.
At most, he expected 10 people to apply. Other trustees, Fruth noted, anticipated only five or six. Not every applicant had prior experience working with libraries, although some did. A doctor and public health professionals, as well as two former village election candidates, submitted themselves for consideration.
“It was a wealth of talented people – so many of them could have been excellent board members,” said Fruth.
Applicants were invited to publicly present their candidacies during the board’s June 22 meeting. In executive session following the presentations, the board unanimously chose Fairfax as Lofton’s replacement.
“She seemed to be for me, as well as everyone else, the strongest candidate,” Fruth said.
Her background in equity set Fairfax apart from the others, according to Fruth, as it fell in line with the library’s goal to actively promote anti-racism and equity education in the community. As part of its anti-racism mission, OPPL is looking to hire a director of equity and anti-racism as well. Fairfax applied for the two-year appointment to further the library’s anti-racism effort.
“We are currently at an inflection point in history regarding race and equity,” Fairfax told Wednesday Journal. “It is well past time for Oak Park to live into our reputation as a diverse community and create an equitable one.”
Fairfax’s name is familiar to many in Oak Park. She has been active in the community since she and her wife moved to the village 16 years ago, frequently making public comments at village board meetings advocating for a number of social causes.
Her resume is extensive, especially as related to equity. She has previously served on the board of the Chicago-based organization Women in the Director’s Chair. Fairfax is also active with Center on Halsted, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.
She co-facilitates cohorts for Race Conscious Dialogues and organizes with Freedom to Thrive Oak Park. Her name is listed among those who signed a letter asking the village board to defund the Oak Park Police Department.
Fairfax also formed the diversity committee for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Illinois for four years. In December 2019 Fairfax was on the host committee for the “Re-envisioning Community Safety” event in Oak Park.
“I very much look forward to serving in this new capacity,” she said.
Library board candidates
More than two dozen Oak Parkers applied for the open position on the library board. Susanne Fairfax was chosen for the seat.
- Vicki Bielanski
- Marta Segal Block
- Melissa Byrd
- Sarah Corbin
- Ann Dvoretsky
- Susanne Fairfax
- Nathan Green
- David Gulbransen
- Christopher Hamilton
- Vernice Haskins
- Lou Anne Johannesson
- Kendall Harvey
- Carol Jago
- Deborah Kadin
- Mary Kilbridge
- Molly Lowe
- Juan Munoz
- Chidinma Osineme
- James Robinson-Parran
- Ira Rigaud
- Kelly Schweitzer
- Marie-Louise Settem
- Terez Stewart
- Mathew Thompson
- Carolyn Walter
- Karen Lee Williams