Each year, the Barbara Ballinger Lecture brings an accomplished author to speak in Oak Park. Hosted by the Friends of the Oak Park Public Library, this public event is free, honoring Ms. Ballinger and her 32 years of library service in Oak Park, including 24 years as head librarian.
About Barbara Ballinger
Born in Miami, Oklahoma, Ballinger began her library career with the Oklahoma City Public Library. After graduating from the University of Kansas, she received her chauffeur’s license to drive a bookmobile for the Topeka Public Library. She went on to earn her MSLS degree at the Graduate School of Library Science of the University of Illinois. Ballinger expected to stay in her Oak Park librarian position for only a few years. Instead, she retired after 32 years of library service in Oak Park, including her 24 years as head librarian. Ballinger led the library during a period of extensive growth and change, a time which saw development of Illinois library resource sharing, the introduction of multiple new technologies, and the overall growth of the library's collection and use. She valued working with civic-minded library boards, dedicated staff members, and the ever supportive Friends. Today, Ballinger enjoys the services of our vibrant library community, one she was instrumental in helping create, and volunteers for The Ernest Hemingway Foundation Archives, now housed in the Main Library. Pictured here, from left: Assisant Director Jim Madigan, Barbara Ballinger and Executive Director David Seleb at the 2013 lecture.
2014 Presenter: Marilyn Johnson
Best-selling author Marilyn Johnson has a penchant for the unsung people who preserve our cultural memory. Her two previous works are This Book is Overdue! , which upended the notion that librarians are obsolete in our digital age, and The Dead Beat , which is about a golden age of obituary writers in a time when newspapers are dying. In her latest release, Lives in Ruins  (Harper; Nov. 11), Johnson turns her trademark narrative perception and wit to the unglamorous, workaday archeologists who sift through the detritus of the past to explore our own connections with those who came before us—working not only in romantic landscapes like Greece or Machu Picchu, but more often in urban construction sites, forgotten graveyards, and even underwater.
2013 Presenter: John Searles
John Searles is the best-selling author of the newly released Help for the Haunted , Boy Still Missing  and Strange but True . Born and raised in New England, the son of a truck-driver father and stay-at-home mom, John’s parents used their connections after his high schoolgraduation to get him a job at the nearby Dupont factory, where he gathered parts for various job orders. It didn’t take him long to realize the place wasn’t for him. John set his sights on becoming the first person in his family to attend college. His personal story of becoming a best-selling author makes one truly believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it — and work very, very hard. Today, John frequently appears as a book critic on NBC’s Today show and CBS’s The Early Show. He is the Editor-at-Large of Cosmopolitan. His essays appear in national publications including The New York Times. John lives in New York City. Photo by Thomas Caruso
2012 Presenter: Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich is the author of 14 novels as well as volumes of poetry, short stories, children's books, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel Love Medicine won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse  was a finalist for the National Book Award. The Plague of Doves  won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Much of her writing draws from the Ojibwe tribe of which she is a part, leading to authentic and beautiful levels of detail. Younger readers will find Erdrich’s Birchbark series appealing. Her latest release, The Round House , is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family. Riveting, suspenseful, and arguably her most accessible novel to date, it won the 2012 National Book Award for fiction. Read more about this prestigious award . Erdrich lives in Minnesota and is the owner of Birchbark Books , an independent bookstore. Photo by Paul Emmel