There’s a new association designed to increase collaboration among Proviso Township library administrators. 

Library Administrators West (LAW) was formed earlier this year by Amy Crump, the executive director of the Bellwood Public Library. She said administrators from libraries in Bellwood, Berkeley, Broadview, Forest Park, Hillside, La Grange Park, Maywood, Melrose Park, Northlake and Westchester are part of the new group. 

“There are plenty of different groups that do this in the Chicago area, but we didn’t have one for Proviso Township,” Crump said in a recent interview.

Crump said the idea to form LAW grew out of a collaboration with a local clergy organization, the Proviso Township Ministerial Alliance Network (PTMAN), which approached her and other library administrators about organizing a campaign to persuade community members to get library cards. 

“We had some meetings to talk about how to do this [campaign] and then, from there, I was like, ‘We should probably be meeting regularly just to talk to each other, because we’re all in Proviso Township.’”

Crump said she was part of a similar group when she was the administrative librarian at the Homewood Public Library in Homewood. She said LAW’s first meeting was held in May. The group meets quarterly at different libraries in the township. The next meeting will be held at the Forest Park Public Library, 7555 Jackson Blvd., on Aug. 31.

“If nothing else, [LAW] gives us a chance to talk about what’s going on at our libraries and share questions with each other about best practices,” Crump said. “It allows us to support each other and network to make sure our libraries are doing the best we can.”

Amy Franco, a Forest Park resident and the director of the Hillside Public Library in Hillside, echoed Crump’s sentiment. 

“There’s a lot of overlap in the communities we serve, so we want to work together to make sure there are no gaps in our services,” she said. “We can compare what’s working at each other’s libraries, so when patrons go from library to library in the township, they’re getting consistent services.”

That may be the case now more than ever, with at least two libraries in the township — Bellwood and Berkeley — undergoing major renovations. Both libraries will be operating at reduced spatial capacity as construction happens. Berkeley’s library was closed for about a week last month and Bellwood’s library will be closed for three weeks this month. 

Franco said patrons of those libraries are welcome to visit Hillside’s library during those closures and construction activity. 

Pilar Shaker, the executive director of the Forest Park Public Library, said she would not have known about the significant construction activity at those other libraries if she hadn’t attended LAW’s inaugural meeting in May. 

“The benefits are apparent right away,” Shaker said. “At that first meeting, we realized that a number of our libraries are going to be doing construction work in the fall. To learn how they aligned and how we can support each other was really helpful.” 

Shaker added that it’s generally helpful for Proviso Township residents to know that they can utilize their library cards at any library in the township, even those outside of the suburbs where they live. She said she hopes the library card signup campaign in September raises the awareness of that fact. 

“The big goal is to make sure our Proviso area residents know that their cards are good at any of our libraries,” she said.