Garrison Johnson

Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.

What qualifies you to serve on the library board and what motivated your interest in the position?

I have been a resident of Oak Park since 1998. Over the past 19 years, I have seen many changes take place in Oak Park specifically with the Oak Park Public Library. As a child I have fond memories of going to the old library, checking out various books and using many of the resources that the library offers. I can remember the excitement I felt when the current library opened in the fall of 2003. As such, I have always had a deep appreciation for the library. A few qualifications I have that would make me a great library board trustee are my young perspective and service-oriented nature. While growing up in Oak Park, I have been involved with multiple service initiatives in the community such as PADs and the Oak Park Food Pantry. I believe that serving on the library board would offer me an excellent opportunity to give back to a community that has given so much to me. 

The library recently implemented a social worker program that replaced private security guards at the library with in-house social workers. What are your thoughts concerning this change?

Hiring a social worker was definitely a step right direction for the Oak Park Public Library. Since Oak Park does not have a designated community center, the library often functions as a community center for many of Oak Park’s residents and patrons. A social worker is able to work constructively with all the library’s patrons and address any issues that may arise. A compliment that I have heard regarding the social worker is that, the social worker has been able to work with the homeless population that frequents the library and help them use some of the resources that the library offers.

The library is currently paying down bond debt for construction of the Main Library. Should the library reduce its tax burden on residents once the bond debt is retired and if so how? Should cuts be made to existing library initiatives to further reduce the tax burden? If so, which ones specifically?

The library should definitely reduce its tax burden on Oak Park residents once the bond debt for the construction of the library has been paid off. Many of Oak Park’s residents have seen their property taxes steadily rise over the past decade. The property tax increase coupled with the higher cost of living in Oak Park has slowly made Oak Park unaffordable for some people. By reducing the tax burden on Oak Park residents, it will allow residents to save more for the future and use this discretionary income in Oak Park to support local businesses that they may not have supported in the past.

The library is considering eliminating late fines for books. Do you support this initiative? If so, why? What else can the library do to increase outreach to patrons?

I definitely support the library’s initiative for eliminating late fines. I know as a child it was commonplace to allow children to check out books and return them in order to teach children about responsibility. However, one of the issues that the library is seeing is that children who check out books and accrue late fines are simply not coming back to the library. The late fines have limited the accessibility of the library to children specifically. Therefore, getting rid of them would alleviate this issue.

What should the library be doing to move beyond its traditional mission of loaning books, DVDs and other materials? 

One initiative that I’d like to see the library implement is a volunteer-based college preparation program for teenagers. This program would assist teens throughout the college application process and offer workshops on how to write college essays. Teenagers are one of the largest demographics that frequent the library and I believe that by providing this service, we could empower and educate the young leaders of tomorrow. 

Join the discussion on social media!