I’ve gradually resumed visiting the Oak Park Public Library. It now appears to be a quite subdued and sedate atmosphere as COVID-19 restrictions have been eased. I recall a pre-pandemic environment that had multiracial representation of all ages. 

Library staff had to occasionally confront some flare-up in the public computer area, or micro-manage one of the numerous homeless patrons encamped during business hours who seemed impervious to the concept of the library being a place of peace and quiet. It was, back then, a mixed bag of the studious and rambunctious patron. If anything, I thought perhaps the library needed to better enforce the quintessential characteristic of it being a quiet, relaxing place.

Evidently, in addition to the boorishly behaved needing intervention, there must have been a lot of racially-fueled misfires in the library’s management. I say this based on this week’s WJ article titled, “Oak Park Library seeks equity and anti-racism director.” The piece invoked the term “equity and anti-racism” 10 times. And it’s not a very long piece. I know that in writing and speaking, repetition gives emphasis to ideas, so I wondered, how much racism has the OPPL been guilty of?

Seriously, what have I been missing here? Has the library been denying services to Black and Brown patrons? Do people of color (I am white, for the record) get only half the public computer time based on skin pigmentation? Were only the white homeless campers cut slack, while minorities given an immediate bum’s rush? Was the art gallery only patronizing white artists? Were notable Black authors’ writings barely given shelf space? Does the library have an all-white staff? Are denigrating racial epithets continually scrawled on the bathroom stalls?

Whoever is hired as the “anti-racism” director, he or she must have one hell of a task to tackle. Seriously.

I realize this country is guilty of systemic racism. White men founded the U.S. declaring “all men are created equal” while owning Black slaves. Clearly, we need more racial equity, and maybe we’re inching our way toward such. I just didn’t know my local library was — evidently — so much a part of the problem.

Joseph Harrington

Oak Park

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