Oak Park Public Library find new use for former coffee shop space

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

The space at the Oak Park Public Library once purposed for a coffee shop has found new life as a haven for creative thought and artwork.

Perks of this space are that it will change monthly while offering interactive ways to engage patrons with in the small glass-encased room.

The month of April, also known as National Poetry Month, showcased the "idea room," which consisted of hundreds of word magnets that merged their way into phrases, short poems and limericks with the help of anyone with the urge to swing by.

"We want to encourage play and interacting from the public," said Monica Harris, the library's customer service manager. "There's opportunity to change as our community does."

Harris compared the space to one seen in museums and said it's unlike those seen in many libraries. Over the course of the month, she said, more people gravitated toward the concept.

"People [were] really charmed by it," she said. "The best part of it [was] seeing how wide-ranging the audience has been there."

Some of the phrases and poems expressed inspirational messages such as: "Balance all. Know thanks. Hath spirit. Give Cheer. Live strength," or "Make solution so that you can life for change," and "Smile and wish into a street window with courage today."

Others revealed messages of affection: "I love me. I love you. The best when together," while some left a world of opportunity for new poets with sayings like "I want to …"

The black, magnetic chalkboard filled with these short messages were packed with many thoughts left uncompleted once another participant tore them apart to create their own.

Harris enjoyed the "temporariness" of the exhibit, and watching how poems either evolved or shrunk during the month.

"It's been very successful," she said. "We're interested in having people actually come in and interact with the space."

Next on board for the space in May is a traveling art exhibit that's coming from an Iowa museum on its way to Washington, D.C. It will showcase various forms of art and culture through video panels running every 30 minutes. An opening gala for the exhibit will be held at the library from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., May 11.

In June, the space is expected to see the Daily Artist exhibit where different artists will work in the room, allowing patrons to view the artistic process as it happens.

The pieces, part of a collaborative project with the Oak Park Art League, will be held in the library afterward for viewing.

Not only will the room transform each month, but a fresh coat of paint will keep the space looking like a new room. But until the next idea pops up, the library staff will keep their ideas flowing for what's next.

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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Sharon from Oak Park Public Library  

Posted: May 9th, 2012 10:21 AM

The "Leaving Czechoslovakia" exhibit is now open in the Main Library's Idea Box. Come hear first person accounts from Czechs and Slovaks who fled their homeland during the Cold War. Free and open to the public during regular library hours through May 27. http://bit.ly/J16HID

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