After six months of preparation and review, the Forest Park Public Library Board of Trustees unanimously approved to hire Pilar Shaker as the library’s new director at the May 16 board meeting.
While Shaker is currently serving as director of the New Lenox Public Library in south suburban New Lenox, she is no stranger to the Forest Park area.
Originally from Oak Park, Shaker went to high school at Oak Park and River Forest High School and attended both the University of Iowa and University of Illinois Chicago to pursue her bachelor’s degree in English literature and minor in gender and women’s studies. She then moved on to Dominican University in River Forest where she received her master’s degree in library and information science (MSLIS) in 2008.
While at Dominican, Shaker worked at the Maze branch of the Oak Park Public Library. Upon graduation, she worked at the Hinsdale Public Library for seven years before being hired by the New Lenox Public Library as their director in 2015.
During her time at Dominican, Shaker and her husband lived in Forest Park and most recently moved to River Forest last year after having lived in Brookfield for five years.
Shaker said she looks forward to working in a community she is already familiar with and is grateful for this unique opportunity.
“Having the opportunity to work in a community that you know intimately, and that you spend a significant amount of personal time in, is a rare and special opportunity that I couldn’t pass on,” Shaker said. “The Forest Park Public Library has an outstanding reputation and many of the staff members are known leaders in the Northern Illinois library community. I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with a team that is making such admirable contributions to the community they serve and the professional community they are a part of.”
Following the December retirement of library director Rodger Brayden, who served the library for 12 years, veteran library director Marilyn Boria served as interim director. After the opening for the full-time director position was made public for application throughout the professional library community, Forest Park received a total of 26 job applications. From there, the board of trustees narrowed the pool to three finalists and ultimately chose Shaker as their top candidate.
Karen Childs, president of the library’s board of trustees, said she is looking forward to having Shaker in charge.
“She is energetic and has ideas that she would like to put into practice that she wasn’t able to at her other library, partly because of finances,” Childs said. “She learned a lot in her directorship, so she’s already had a lot of experience in certain things that we know we need here.”
Shaker said her time in New Lenox has prepared her for working creatively in Forest Park.
“My current role has given me the opportunity to learn how to do a lot with very little and I am prepared to provide the Forest Park residents with the best return on investment that I possibly can,” she said.
Childs hopes Shaker can help the board see some of their long-term goals to fruition.
“The main thing is the strategic plan, [which] needs to be looked at,” she said. “We’re about at the end of our old one and we’re looking at space utilization to see if we have enough room for the things we want to do. We feel we’ve maxed out our building, but we’re not sure what other options we have, especially since parking is limited.”
Shaker is also looking forward to collaborating with the community on future projects.
“I hope I can bring a fresh and energized perspective to the library,” she said. “I am lucky to be taking over a position that was left by a director who obviously valued his role. Rodger Brayden did some important work here and left the library in a much stronger position than he found it when he started in 2004. I hope to carry on Rodger’s work and to do so with a renewed enthusiasm and eye for the future.”
Shaker’s anticipated start date is June 30 and she is expected to receive an initial salary of $75,000 a year.