Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year's elections.
Profession: Librarian (retired)
How long have you lived in Oak Park? Since 2007.
How often do you visit the Oak Park Public Library?
Before I decided to run for the Board, I was inside Maze or Main about once a week and I used the online resources for research, to reserve books and to download ebooks at least that often. Now I'm more involved. I appreciate having the OPPL application on my iPhone and my iPad.
Why are running for this office?
I'm running now because the time is right for me to do it. In 2007 I traded my 30-year career as a librarian in Maryland to come to Oak Park to help my daughter, Dr. Lucy Fox, when her twins were babiesborn. I loved being a librarian and was not ready to retire. Now that the boys are in school at Longfellow I have more time again and I want to get more involved in our community. Serving on the Library Board seems like a perfect fit for my skills. Oak Park has turned out to be a wonderful place to live and I'd like to make a contribution to the community.
Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? No.
Have you served on other boards or commissions at a local level?
I have served on other professional boards in Maryland, but never on a commission.
What do you consider to be the greatest strengths at the Oak Park Public Library?
The greatest strengths are the staffing, the buildings, and the public support. Libraries don't get as strong as the Oak Park Public Library without this synergy. The staff provides the programming and chooses the resources, both print and digital, that we need. The Main Library has rightly been called "the living room of Oak Park" and the branches are neighborhood hubs. The taxpayers of Oak Park strengthen the library by providing the funding for the staff, resources, programming and buildings.
What is the biggest issue the library faces today?
I think the biggest issue facing the library today is the digital divide. The library has put a lot of money into digital resources and, according to the 2013 budget, has plans for more. It is important that the citizens who are the least likely to have up-to-date technology at home are not excluded. I'm thinking here not just about economic disparities, but the generational divide as well. Another aspect of the digital divide that the library has yet to face is the disparity in the way people make use of technology. Libraries are becoming places where people create digital information as well as access it. We should be addressing that issue today and making good decisions about what that should look like in the future.
What is your idea for how the library board should approach the library lobby redo?
We should approach it cautiously. I attended board meetings where this topic was discussed and decided on. I have seen an architect's presentation. The current board has already approved the funding, which is coming out of money the library has already saved. The role of new board members will be in approving the details and making sure the funding really is from saved, set-aside money, as promised.
I recognize the need to upgrade the library's ten-year-old computerized circulation system, and as long as the money is spent carefully, redoing the lobby at the same time makes sense to me. Unlike the rest of the building, the lobby space is not well used. It is not welcoming. Creating a multiuse gathering space at the far end of the library is consistent with the mission to provide "…the space and opportunities to gather and connect." Overseeing the use of the space may be a challenge to the staff, at times, but by using the zone system they have been successful at managing other spaces in the library. We need a place in the lobby to wait for and meet each other.
How do you think the library can evolve with technology while still providing its basic core services?
Reading the library mission statement makes it clear that providing resources and services for life long learning and enjoyment is basic. Being a place where patrons have space and opportunities to gather and connect is another basic service. Fostering a love of reading is the third. I don't see a contradiction between evolving with technology and these basic core services.
In many ways, evolving technology helps the library provide its core services more efficiently, especially in accessing materials. The print and non-print resources of our library (and other SWAN libraries) are as close as a computer or, wirelessly, a smart phone or tablet. The website is a cost effective, ecological way for the library to communicate with patrons. Technology allows easy access to shared resources and makes our collection much richer while allowing us to share the costs of storing lesser-used materials with other libraries. Staffing costs represent over 65% of the budget. Technology expenditures that can help cut down on the need for support staff will free up more money for materials and allow staff to focus more on programming.
As ereaders like tablets become more and more common, I see ereader technology increasing in importance. Publishers are still figuring out how to deal with the market for nonprint books, but I think it will happen. Ereader licensing agreements can provide access to more copies of best sellers and save the library the expense of purchasing, processing, storing and ultimately, disposing of these basically ephemeral products. Anyone who has worked at the Friends' used book sale has seen the thousands of books that end up getting sold by the ton. I once heard a lecture about the transformations that came with the technological development of the printing press in 1500. At the time a lot of influential people were very unhappy with that technology. I'm not someone who envisions libraries without books. Not at all. Nevertheless, we aren't going to turn back the clock on information technology, nor should we. The future should be concerned with best practices and appropriate uses of technology.
What is your vision for the future of the Oak Park Public library?
Right now Envision Oak Park is developing a long-range Comprehensive Plan for Oak Park and I expect the results of this process will have an impact on the library. I don't have my own plan for the future of the library. When she left in December, Dee Brennan made some very insightful comments about the future of the Oak Park Public library. She said that, more than any other institution in Oak Park, the library serves all of us, sometimes our needs conflict and that's something the library will always grapple with. Part of it relates to the digital divide I addressed earlier, other parts relate to space issues, noise issues, programming priorities and collection building priorities. As long as we have thoughtful leadership and community support our excellent library will grow and change with the times. Because we won't have to archive so many rarely used materials, thanks to technology and shared resources, I don't see us outgrowing the physical space. I've only lived in Oak Park during tough years economically and have been delighted that the libraries fared so well in spite of the crisis. I hear a lot of talk about the high taxes in Oak Park and wouldn't be surprised if the library, as well as other public institutions, face push back especially in the form of more calls for interagency cooperation and coordination.
What else should Oak Park residents know about you?
After all this writing about electronic technology I'd just like to add that my favorite small child read-aloud bedtime book is Ten Minutes to Bedtime by Peggy Rath. My favorite children's novel is still Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. My favorite mystery series is Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti series, with Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford series a close second. The book I read most recently was A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.