There are two visions of libraries.
One is book-centric. OK, maybe you’ll allow for lending DVDs. It is a quiet place. Always this odd intense focus on quiet. And admit it. You miss the card catalogues.
In your nostalgic view, those of us who need a warm place or a cool place on an intemperate day don’t belong in a library. Teenagers should be seen but not heard. And technology should be limited to a printer to produce a resume. The better to pull oneself up by the bootstraps.
The rapidly-evolving alternate view of a library is as essential social infrastructure. The community library is a hub of welcoming, learning, gathering, invention and solace. Technology is central to the process of sharing knowledge. But core values are more central. Equity. Access. Literacy. Civic engagement.
David Seleb, director of Oak Park’s public library system for the past eight years, has just announced his retirement. Together with an elected board that was always fully in sync, Seleb has been a transformational leader. He took our library from a space patrolled by hired security to a social service leader that connected clients to needed help. He put equity and antiracism at the top of the strategic plan. He invested in both technology and people, making our libraries both cutting edge and fun. He oversaw a major investment in the Maze Branch, quieting longtime fears that the two branches were expendable. And he led the institution through an unprecedented pandemic.
He has our respect and our thanks.