*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies
My name is Ann Berens and I am running for a Trustee position on the River Forest Library Board. I am a 20-year active resident and have a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2018).
I believe libraries have the power to inform, inspire and engage with all individuals in a community. Additionally, I believe libraries must constantly evolve to connect with the people they serve whether through new material formats, technology or program services.
I have experience working with library patrons ages pre-school through young adults. I have 10 years of experience working in RF District 90 elementary and middle school libraries and summer practicum experience working with teens at Oak Park Public Library. I currently work part-time at Concordia University’s library. Previously, I worked in account management as a marketing communications professional with large multi-national advertising agencies for 12 years.
I am running to provide a Librarian “voice” on the Board and to ensure that RFPL continues to be an excellent resource for the people of its community. I look forward to earning your vote.
How can the library improve upon virtual services?
The RF library did a great job providing both materials and programming to the community over the past year. There are two steps I would recommend in considering improving virtual services. The first is to understand through assessment the strengths and opportunities the library learned as it transitioned from physical to remote access. These lessons could then be used to inform future practice. The second is to consider how to optimize user experience with the RF library website as this is often the gateway to virtual service.
As a trustee, how do you intend to minimize the tax levy increase for residents during this period of economic hardship and uncertainty?
I would work with the current Board to continue to be good stewards of resident funding. I do not believe that this is a time for increasing the tax levy and instead it may be necessary to develop alternative creative avenues for funding programs. For example, there may be ways to share programming costs with other libraries particularly since so many events are currently online, e.g. split the cost of a keynote speaker with other public libraries since virtual participation is not limited by physical space constraints. We can also invigorate our donor base.
What areas of library operations do you believe need to be bigger priorities for the library board?
In order of priorities: greater assistance to support children’s academics, expansion of donor base, and retention of personnel.
What innovations brought on during the pandemic ought to be continued going forward?
I would be interested in having programming continue to be accessible virtually even when it is feasible to host in-person events. In-person programming might be live streamed thereby improving accessibility to all interested participants. There may also be ways to offer past programming events virtually for patrons who were unable to attend on the original date.
What experience and qualifications do you possess that will help the library overcome obstacles and limitations?
My experience working in libraries makes me aware of many of the day to day issues that arise in a library. I believe this experience provides a lens that can be used to support the outstanding work and staff of RF library as well as share patron perspectives. Working in libraries also makes me vested in the need to ensure that policies and procedures are in place and developed to address any potential challenges.
Additionally, I believe my strengths include seeing possibilities, solving problems, and making connections. I look forward to using my “boots on the ground” experience along with my strengths to help the library overcome obstacles and limitations.
What infrastructure or remodeling issues remain to be resolved at the library?
The most immediate infrastructure issue is the anticipated expiration of the air handler. The Board is currently looking to house a new air handler outside the building (versus the current handler contained inside) thus allowing for additional space to be captured and remodeled for patron use.