Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year's elections.
Age: 57 (for a little while longer)
Profession: Independent Consultant. The bulk of my career has been in health insurance IT.
How long have you lived in Oak Park? About 2 ½ years. We moved here from the suburbs further west. However, my wife's cousin has lived on Marion Street for 20 years, so we have been familiar with the town for a long time.
How often do you visit the Oak Park Public Library? Counting both on-line and in person, probably average about 3 times a week. As we live just a block from the main library I am there more than the branches.
Why are running for this office?
For very selfish reasons. First, the last election was when we had just moved here and I thought it was terrible that there weren't enough people on the ballot to fill all the open slots. I am not a politician, so an uncontested election was very attractive. Finally, I frankly love libraries. While I am old enough to love to have books around me, I also have a Nook and enjoy the flexibility that provides me (been commuting and run out of book? With a nook you can have a backup). Finally, I think we have a great library that seems to be working hard to meet the needs of the community – I would like to be part of helping keep the library relevant to the wide range of needs from Oak Park residents.
Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office?
No, this is the first time, and it has been an experience.
Have you served on other boards or commissions at a local level? If not, what makes you want to serve now?
No, not public commissions but my working life contained a lot of similar experiences with work groups made up of participants from a variety of organizations.
Why now? – Since leaving my full time job last spring, I have more time to devote to it. I don't believe the commitment of the board is just the monthly meetings. I believe that as a board member I would have the responsibility to spend a significant amount of time outside the meetings to research the issues being discussed in order to contribute as much as possible to the decisions. I am a firm believer in doing my homework, of learning what has worked and not worked elsewhere so Oak Park can take advantage of the lessons learned by others.
What do you consider to be the greatest strengths at the Oak Park Public Library?
I am going to cheat on this one, and give 2 related strengths – first, the high level of use by the community is a tremendous strength. Related is the board's and staff's hard work to both provide good service and evolve the services to keep meeting changing needs and opportunities. I believe these two strengths are inherently linked.
What is the biggest issue the library faces today?
I believe keeping the right balances of services in this period of rapid change. E-books have come from nothing in 5 years. Compared to 10 years ago, if you are looking for a job now without access to the internet, you have a tremendous disadvantage. While the library needs to keep up with changing needs, while maintaining traditional services, it needs to balance what it can do with the budget, particularly in these tough times.
What is your idea for how the library board should approach the library lobby redo?
As I was collecting signatures to appear on the ballot, this was the one issue several people mentioned. I have only sat in on one board meeting, so don't feel I have a complete picture of the project. However, I believe the core of the project – the creation of new meeting space behind the circulation desk – is a good idea. There are several reasons for this. First if you go to the library after 3pm there isn't a seat to be had. I have had groups I work with dismiss the idea of meeting at the library because "you can never get any space". Next I believe part of the emerging role of the library is not just as warehouse of books, but as space where people can meet to work on subjects of interest.
How do you think the library can evolve with technology while still providing its basic core services?
I believe it is a tough balance, and I don't have a pat answer. One approach I used in my professional life was to first look to the "keep the lights on" basic activities that can't be skipped. Only after that is determined can you see what is available for new activities or changes. That said, the definition of what is the base that is necessary to "keep the light on" can have a range of opinion.
What is your vision for the future of the Oak Park Public library?
The only answer I have is very broad – the future needs to be relevant to the needs of the community. If I get the opportunity to serve on the board I want to spend my own time to explore some marketing concepts to attempt to understand what the different customer (both current users and non-users) segments are and what their needs are. As in business, only by understanding what the variety of needs of different groups can you hope to find the best balance of services. The library is not going to be able to do everything for everyone, but we can work to try to get the most bang for the buck possible.
What else should Oak Park residents know about you?
It all started in a small log cabin….just kidding. I am new to this, so not sure what people would want to know. My sense is people could care less about the details of my life. If I must have a closing statement it would be: I love libraries and would work hard to keep our library as a great place, if I get the opportunity to be part of the board.
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