Removing assumptions, barriers to access

Oak Park Stories

“People make a lot of assumptions about who is experiencing homelessness, based on how someone looks, acts, smells, or dresses,” said the library’s Director of Social Services and Safety Robert Simmons. “But really, you don’t know if someone is homeless unless they tell you.” As the Oak Park Homelessness Coalition notes in its 2016 Plan … Read more

A welcoming place, where everybody is somebody

Social Services Specialist Stephen Jackson, Supervisor of Safety and Security Aaron Alonzo, and Social Services Director Robert Simmons

In March 2016, Robert Simmons joined the library as its first social worker, a direct result of the library’s intentional strategy of listening and responding to community aspirations. Since then, the Social Services and Safety team he’s built has served more than 350 vulnerable patrons. Most are Oak Park residents experiencing mental illness, homelessness, and … Read more

Stronger together

Last March, as part of our strategy to rethink how we engage with all patrons, we hired a social worker—a first for us, but part of a growing trend for public libraries, including those in Evanston, Denver, and Washington, DC. “Around the nation, public libraries have become de facto community health centers for people who … Read more

A new experience model

olmes Elementary teacher Drew Finkbeiner and Oak Park Public Library's Rob Simmons shaking hands.

Rethinking how we engage with all patrons In his first week as Social Services and Safety Director, Robert Simmons found the demand for his social work advocacy and referral services even greater than expected. “The library provides a snapshot of the overwhelming discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots,” Simmons said. “Oak Park is only … Read more

Manager for Community Resources hired

Rob Simmons, Director of Social Services and Safety

Robert A. Simmons has accepted the library’s new full-time position of Manager for Community Resources. His first day in this new library role will be Monday, March 7. Joining a handful of public libraries in cities (including Denver, San Francisco, and Washington, DC) with similar social services-based positions, the library created the new role in late 2015. Primary responsibilities will include working … Read more

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