Forest Park and its vibrant public library will miss Pilar Shaker. Its director since 2016, Shaker has resigned, effective Oct. 28, to “pursue other, non-library opportunities.”
Shaker further energized a public library that has gradually emerged as a potent force for connection and innovation in Forest Park and beyond. From its staid days of decades past when “shooshing” and collecting overdue fines was a good day’s work, this library has become focused on welcoming and inclusion, sharing technology, pushing past the walls of its Desplaines Avenue facility, collaborating with vigor, and basically reinventing what a public library can be in a digital world.
Along the way, Shaker oversaw the first major renovation of what we still think of as “the new library.” Those changes were geared to create more inclusive spaces for young people and elders, to boost the technology available, to become more accessible. She will be departing as a second phase of renovations launches.
She has also grown a staff of enthusiastic librarians who share the mission that is driving the library. The library’s board will now choose an interim director as it begins a search for a permanent leader. They have the role model they need to find to continue to grow this organization.
Helping the unhoused
Forest Park has issues with people without housing options. Every town, especially inner-ring suburbs, has some version of this challenge. Right now in Forest Park it plays out in some intersection of panhandling along the Ike, possible drug use, and taking shelter in a no man’s land on a sliver of property under the jurisdiction of possibly the Illinois Department of Transportation, the CSX railroad, the CTA or Cook County.
The lack of clarity on the control of the land is one challenge. That some portion of unhoused people are reluctant to seek help is another.
Mayor Rory Hoskins recently called attention to the small encampment — we’re talking under a half-dozen people — and said the village is working with Housing Forward, the Maywood-based nonprofit that does remarkable work on all fronts of homelessness. That is the right move. This is a social service issue, not one for law enforcement.
But the matter is a chronic one. A simple solution, a permanent fix is unlikely. This issue will need ongoing attention from a mix of village government, Housing Forward and whichever entity it turns out owns the parcel in question.
Good for the village for addressing this with humanity.