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Oak Park Public Library celebrates 110 years

Though there were plenty of librarians around wearing black commemorative T-shirts marking the 110th anniversary of the Oak Park Public Library earlier this month, the third floor was hardly a place for reading and contemplation.

“Make some noise in the library! I always wanted to do that,” quipped Robert Davis, lead vocalist for the rhythm and blues band R-Gang, encouraging applause from the crowd gathered in the northeast corner.

The free after-hours party, also marking the 10-year anniversary of the main library building on Lake Street, was part of a weekend-long celebration that included a variety of family-friendly activities enjoyed by hundreds of patrons.

The celebration also included magician Gary Kantor at the Dole branch and “Lizards, Frogs, Turtles and More” at the Maze branch.

Each of the three library branches also hosted artist receptions on Sunday in honor of the 40 literature-inspired art pieces that will be on display throughout the month.

Oak Park resident Ruby Collins settled into a seat with a drink and some hors d’oeuvres, pleased library officials had brought in R-Gang, one of her favorite bands, so she could groove to adult hits by Marvin Gaye and The Temptations.

“They’re awesome,” she said. “Wherever they are, I try to go. I love them, and I love Motown.”

There also was no shushing the young guests in the Veterans Room where The Boogers rocked out to more age-appropriate tunes like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

Enjoying wine from the cash bar on the second floor, Marge Gockel, who lives three blocks from the library, said she is a member of one of the 86 book clubs hosted there.

“The library’s my default mode,” she said. “If I have a blank afternoon, I come over here and read The New York Times or Time magazine and other various things I don’t have at home.”

Earlier in the day, library officials had planned a picnic in Scoville Park but brought the special events indoors for fear of rain.

Children’s author and illustrator Eric Rohman entertained youngsters in the Story Time Room by showing them how a word like “Soccer!!” could become a picture of a baby.

“It’s fun to be here, ’cause I’ve never worked in my own town yet,” the Caldecott award winner said.

Invited by friends who live in Oak Park, Chicago residents Alicia and Mike Huguelet brought their 3-year-old daughter Ellie to a morning performance by musician Jim Gill in the Veterans Room.

“This is such an amazing event and such a great library,” Alicia Huguelet said. “It was such a fun concert for the kids.”

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