The Sept. 1, 2022 Forest Park Public Library Board of Trustees meeting | Credit: Igor Studenkov/Staff Reporter

Pilar Shaker, the director of the Forest Park Public Library, will resign effective Oct. 28.

The decision was publicly announced during a Sept. 1 special meeting of the library board. In a follow-up interview with the Review, Shaker said she was leaving to “pursue other, non-library opportunities” and declined to elaborate any further. She said that, while she would have liked to see the building renovations kicking off this month through, she has confidence that the staff would handle the project smoothly, and that she was equally confident in the board’s ability to choose a successor.

During the Sept. 1 meeting, the board discussed the process for doing just that, as well as the process for finding an interim director. They hope to select both the consulting firm and the interim director during the regular, Sept. 19 meeting. The trustees also agreed to form a personal committee to whittle down the pool of candidates to a pool of finalists. The board hopes to find the new director within three months of Shaker’s resignation.

Pilar Shaker

According to her LinkedIn profile, Shaker was hired as the Forest Park library director in June 2016. She previously served as director at New Lenox Public Library District from Feb. 2015 to June 2016, and she worked for Hinsdale Public Library for almost seven years. Shaker started her library career at the Oak Park Public Library, working as a library associate from Feb. 2006 to Jan. 2008.

Shaker told the Review she was proud to lead the team that has “achieved a lot” over the past six years, including the 2019 building renovations, various internal changes in the library functions and navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It very much feels like I’ve left a mark on the library, and it’s very difficult for me to step away and let someone else take over,” she said. “We are entering into the building project this fall, and I certainly wish I could’ve seen it through to the end, just for the continuity.”

However, Shaker added that she was confident that the staff and the contractors would manage the project just fine, and that the board will make a “wonderful choice” for a new director.

“I’m definitely grateful for the Forest Park community, the patrons as well, the support of our village and the other organizations I’ve built relationships with,” she said. “They all made me feel very welcome. I really appreciate the support and the welcoming environment, and I hope that whatever I do next will feel as much like home.”

During the Sept. 1 special meeting, the board agreed to reach out to three firms – Downers Grove-based HR Source, which already helps the library with hiring, Deiters & Todd consulting firm, which is currently working on the Maywood Public Library director search and has previously done some consulting for the Forest Park library, and Bradbury Miller Associates, a Canton, Ohio based firm that Board President Brooke Sievers said she had positive experiences with.

Sievers said that, aside from the experience, the advantage of hiring a firm is that they make sure the library follows proper procedure every step of the way. 

The search committee, which will be made up of three trustees and two full-time staff people, will review the job postings and, once they get applications, narrow it down to 3 to 5 finalists. The full board will make the final decision. Sievers, board Vice President Keary Bramwell and trustee Eboni Murray agreed to join the committee on the board side. 

The board voted unanimously to fund the director search with $50,000 from the library’s contingency fund, which is reserved for unexpected expenses. Sievers said the fund  would still have $19,000 remaining.

The board also looked at the interim executive director hiring. The library succession plan allows the business manager to step in for up to three months.

 Sievers said she was “concerned about putting the [extra] workload on the existing staff member,” so she would prefer to hire a retired director on a part-time basis. 

Shaker said she was talking to one potential candidate, and another candidate who she believes may be persuadable. 

“My comment to [the second potential interim director] is that everything is very organized. I feel strongly that I’m leaving things in good order, and this isn’t one of those jobs where she’s going to clean up messes,” Shaker told the board. “And she said — if that’s true, I may be willing to discuss it, because you may not need me to be there 25 hours a week for six months.”