Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year's elections.
Profession: Publicist / Media consultant
How long have you lived in Oak Park? 18 years
How often do you visit the Oak Park Public Library? 2 or 3 times weekly
Why are you running for this office?
I have an enormous amount of respect for the role that the library plays for a wide spectrum of people who come through its doors–at the Main Library and the two branch locations, Maze and Dole.
At the same time, I am confident that I would provide value to the library through serving as a trustee.
That commitment to being a valuable resource for Oak Park residents and guests appears to be as vibrant as ever. If elected, I would diligently look for ways in which that dedication to service can continue and expand.
Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office?
Have you served on other boards or commissions at a local level? If not, what makes you want to serve now?
For the past 18 months, I have been president of my 20-unit condominium association. In addition, I was recently elected to the Pleasant District Association board of directors.
Running for the library board is the latest in a series of decisions to become more engaged with the community. I have benefited from the efforts of so many others, past and present, who have helped shape Oak Park and I feel that it's simply time for me to step up and serve.
I believe that my communication skills and ability to work with a wide range of personalities would serve the board well.
I have two experiences of Oak Park: the nine years before my children were born, and the nine years that have passed since they were born. As two-month-old infants, they were present with me, my wife and hundreds of others for the main library's dedication in Fall 2003.
I appreciated the library before becoming a parent. And as my family has increasingly relied on its myriad features over the past decade, that recognition of the library's vital role in the community has multiplied. Serving on the library board would be an honor that I would take seriously.
What do you consider to be the greatest strengths at the Oak Park Public Library?
A resounding commitment by its staff and volunteers to serving the wide spectrum of people who use its services. A display at last year's Day in Our Village illustrated the library's broad impact. It invited people to put a gemstone in one of at least six bowls, each representing a compelling way that the library contributes to the lives of those in the village. And it all starts with the people who devote their energies to making the library one of the best around.
What is the biggest issue the library faces today?
Most immediately, it's hiring a well-qualified successor to Dee Brennan, who served the library very well in her six-year tenure as its executive director. More generally, it's serving the various segments of our population against a backdrop of rapid technological change. As an example, some people want heightened access to the latest in high-tech devices, such as the Nook. Others prefer to stick with the hardcover books they grew up with. The library needs to balance the varying desires and sensibilities of our diverse residents.
What is your idea for how the library board should approach the library lobby redo?
I sat in on part of the current board's discussion about the lobby redo. What's clear is that this has been on the backburner for years, and has been delayed based on the library's desire to be good financial stewards. I believe that the library, as a whole, is a jewel but that its lobby has not measured up to the building's overall standard. I am hopeful that once the redo is completed, the updated result will justify the investment.
How do you think the library can evolve with technology while still providing its basic core services?
Evolving with technology is, in fact, a fundamental part of the library's basic core services. An excellent library serves a variety of vital functions. Among them, it's a place to learn, to be inspired and to join together with others and build community. Technology, in its many forms, provides alternate ways to fulfill all those functions.
What is your vision for the future of the Oak Park Public library?
To continue to embody what we want to inspire in all who use the library: a quest for continual growth, with a spirit of openness while never resting on our laurels.
What else should Oak Park residents know about you?
I am a recovering journalist, I have a super-hero alter ego known as Super Shopper Spotter, I love coaching my children's park district basketball teams, I am actively involved in my church, Harvest Bible Chapel, and I have a Facebook page and blog with more details about my candidacy: http://mattbaronforlibraryboard.wordpress.com/
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