Joslyn Bowling Dixon has been named the new executive director of the Oak Park Public Library. Dixon, who has a master’s in library and information sciences, was approved for the post by unanimous vote at the library board’s Oct. 6 meeting.
She has a 20-year career in libraries, a career which began in Oak Park. Most recently she has been the director of the Newark, New Jersey public library. She has been active in DEI related work within national library associations.
“Joslyn, please know that this board is behind you and ready to work hand-in-hand with you to empower our staff and community to make this a library for everyone,” Board President Matt Fruth told her.
Dixon, who did not attend the meeting, was one of three final candidates put forth for consideration by Reesheda Graham Washington. Graham Washington’s consulting firm served as the library’s recruitment firm for the search after the firm first chosen backed away from the project.
The library engaged Graham Washington’s firm in late March. She completed her work on the recruitment project in late August. The library board completed the final phase of the project on its own. Graham Washington declined Wednesday Journal’s request for comment.
Fruth thanked library staff, the library board and the recruitment team for their dedication to finding a qualified replacement for former executive director David Seleb at the Oct. 6 meeting.
“I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who helped us complete this journey, firstly to Reesheda Graham Washington and her team at the Blackberry Collective,” Fruth said. “They have helped us look at this search a different way that asked tough questions that this board will continue to reflect upon beyond tonight.”
While much of Dixon’s career has been spent working in public libraries on the East Coast, she is very familiar with Illinois, having grown up in Aurora. She has also spent time in the Oak Park and River Forest communities. One of her earliest positions was as circulation manager and library associate with the Oak Park libraries. She received her master’s in library science from Dominican University in River Forest.
Wednesday Journal has reached out to Dixon for comment.
“My experience at Oak Park set a high bar for customer service, innovation, and collaboration that I have strived to emulate and carry with me throughout my library career,” Dixon said in a library release. “It is an incredible privilege and honor to be afforded the opportunity to return to Oak Park to lead this dedicated and engaged team.”
Dixon studied English at Hampton University in Virginia, where she received her bachelor’s degree. Dixon most recently served as the director of the Newark Public Library in New Jersey. She also served as the deputy director for the Prince William Public Library in Virginia, as well as a branch manager in the D.C. Public Library, among other positions in public library systems.
Dixon’s annual salary will be $150,000 and her start date was set for Nov. 7.
OPPL’s previous executive director, David Seleb, was instrumental in guiding the library’s antiracism programming and initiatives. He retired from the library in February and is now associated with the Harwood Institute. The library has continued pushing forward with its equity efforts since Seleb’s retirement.
“I am consistently in awe of our library staff and the way they work to create an atmosphere that fosters belonging and inclusion,” said Fruth.
Dixon is poised to continue the library’s efforts with an extensive history of involvement in equity-related positions and organizations. According to the Oak Park library, she began the first Librarians of Color Forum for the Virginia Library Association and serves as a member of American Libraries Association EDI Speakers Bureau. She is also among the ALA’s at-large advisors and is an active member of the Urban Libraries Council.
Dixon is also a certified racial healing practitioner and was an equity, diversity and inclusion consultant for her alma mater’s Harvey Library initiative: Leading the Charge: Advancing the Recruitment, Retention and Inclusion of People of Color within the Library and Information Science Field.