The library’s Social Services and Public Safety team ensures safety in the library and refers people to resources for housing, employment, health care, immigration, domestic violence, and more.
Meet our team
- Robert Simmons, Director of Social Services and Public Safety, 708.697.6910, RobertS@oppl.org
- Stephen Jackson, Teen Services Coordinator, 708.697.6908, StephenJ@oppl.org
- Aaron Alonzo, Supervisor of Public Safety, AaronA@oppl.org
How we serve
Libraries exist to help people find and connect with the information they need.
Our Social Services and Public Safety team serves individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness, poverty, and mental health and substance abuse disorders. The team connects people to information and resources such as advocacy and service referrals for housing, employment, health care, immigration, domestic violence, and more.
New! Free mental health assessments. By appointment, children and adults can receive free mental health assessments conducted by Rush University Medical Center psychologists at the Main Library. To learn more and schedule an appointment on Wednesdays from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, please contact Director Robert Simmons at 708.697.6910 or RobertS@oppl.org.
Finding resources in the library’s collection
No matter what your age, you can check out books from any floor of the library.
Collaborating with local agencies
The team collaborates and maintains relationships with more than 40 organizations throughout the entire Chicago area, connecting people to the services and resources they need. Here are some key partners and resources in the Oak Park area.
- Housing Forward. Transitions people from housing crisis to housing stability, with a range of programs and services. See the shelter schedule through May 2020 »
- Oak Park Homelessness Coalition. Consists of over 50 organizations and individuals working to end homelessness in Oak Park. Find community resources for your family in Oak Park »
- Community Mental Health Board. Assists in planning, developing, coordinating, evaluating, and funding mental health services in Oak Park. This includes services for persons with mental disorders, alcohol or other drug dependence, or developmental disorders.
- Oak Park Township Youth Services. Uses prevention techniques, crisis intervention, restorative justice, therapeutic involvement, case management, and coordination of wraparound services by partnering with other community agencies.
- Warming Centers. The library is a defacto warming center, meaning we organically serve as one during library open hours only. When we are closed, these warming centers are open »
Why have social workers at the library?
Robert Simmons joined the library in 2016 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 Public Safety team has served hundreds of vulnerable patrons. Most are Oak Park residents experiencing mental illness, homelessness, and extreme poverty.
The decision to hire a social worker was part of rethinking how we engage with all patrons, “including those who are vulnerable, marginalized, or at-risk, who use our facilities on a daily basis, and for whom we should be providing services,” said Executive Director David J. Seleb.
It was also part of a growing trend for public libraries, including those in Evanston, Denver, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. “Around the nation, public libraries have become de facto community health centers for people who don’t have access to other resources,” Simmons said.