*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies
My name is Katherine Bevan. I am a River Forest parent of three children ages five, nine, and ten; a former financial consultant; and current Vice President on the Board of Trustees of the River Forest Public Library. I am a lifelong library lover and patron and I believe that libraries are a crucial part of a thriving community. I am running for re-election to the library Board because I want to help the library maintain and grow its role in serving River Forest, while providing continuity of leadership during a time of transition.
I am a critical thinker and I strive to look at decisions from a variety of angles, with an eye to the big picture. I have a BSBA in Finance and previously worked at a consulting firm specializing in risk management and regulatory compliance. I have applied these skills to the Board over the past six years.
Some notable contributions of my Board service include:
- As Treasurer and chair of the Finance committee, I aided library administration in setting up a defined reserve structure that allowed for interest revenue while still protecting liquidity. I also helped establish forward-looking capital improvement and budget processes.
- As a member of the Policy committee, I worked on modernizing and streamlining the library’s entire policy manual, including setting up a rotating schedule to ensure all policies were reviewed at least every three years.
- As Vice President, I lead a search team through a thorough process to hire a new library Director. The Board evaluated the job description and desired key attributes and focused on finding a strategic leader with top-notch communication skills, who would understand and enhance the library’s role in our community, and appreciate and oversee our service-oriented staff.
Libraries have been extremely flexible during the changing circumstances of the past year. While many other traditional avenues for engagement, learning, and entertainment were closed, the library provided resources, services, and programs across different modalities. I believe many patrons found the services more valuable than ever. I think that as health restrictions are relaxed, libraries have an opportunity to integrate new service models and bring greater access to our patrons. Blending the best of in-person and virtual offerings will best serve our community. We should additionally continue and expand partnerships with other local entities. I look forward to continuing to serve River Forest by maintaining and growing the library’s place in our community.
How can the library improve upon virtual services?
During the past year, the library has bolstered availability of electronic materials, introduced online library cards, and presented all-virtual programming for all ages. For these services to be effective, patrons must be aware of the services and able to use them. The library may need to reach out to patrons to ensure both of these are true. Going forward, it will be important to look at the data for how this variety of digital services is being used, as well as if there are still unmet needs. This information will inform future budget priorities.
As a trustee, how do you intend to minimize the tax levy increase for residents during this period of economic hardship and uncertainty?
The key question is how the library can bring value to residents during these difficult times. The library offers meaningful services to the community, many of which are even more important in times of uncertainty. A few examples that resonate in our current moment are providing readily available educational materials to supplement students’ learning at home, offering a variety of online media to promote lifelong learning while many other avenues are closed, and offering computer and internet access.
The library leverages a small budget for large value to the community. The small size of the library’s tax levy, which comprises about 2% of the tax bill, means that there is not an opportunity for meaningful tax relief by foregoing levy increases. Instead, the library can and will continue to leverage its tax revenues to positively impact the residents of River Forest.
What areas of library operations do you believe need to be bigger priorities for the library board?
The library Board creates a three-to-five year strategic plan and the library Director and staff utilize this plan to guide specific operations. The changing circumstances of the past year have meant that some strategic plan goals were not able to be fully addressed. As the library moves towards more regular operations, the Board should review the status of the current strategic plan and begin considering the next one. I think that the next round of strategic planning will need to take into account the many changes that society has faced, and should include focus groups and interviews with community members to determine how the library can best serve our community going forward.
What innovations brought on during the pandemic ought to be continued going forward?
The pandemic has led us into new service models. While we will all be excited to safely gather at the library again, I think that virtual programming and resources will continue to be part of the library’s offerings. It can bring flexibility and access. Blending the best of in-person and virtual offerings will serve the community. Similarly, as we are now accustomed to public meetings conducted with video-conferencing, I expect virtual access to public meetings to become the new norm. This will allow villagers to participate and engage with elected Boards with more flexibility.
The pandemic also presented opportunities to provide value in new ways, such as facilitating summer book clubs for the school district. I hope that partnerships with other local entities can continue and expand.
What experience and qualifications do you possess that will help the library overcome obstacles and limitations?
The first relevant experience is that of six years on the library Board, including time on Finance and Policy committees and on the Director search team. I have institutional knowledge of the library’s services, facilities, and budget that will help the library through this period of transition that includes introducing a new Director and recovering from the turmoil of the pandemic year.
I have a particular affinity for the Board’s role to oversee the library’s finances, as I have a BSBA in Finance and previously worked in financial consulting. During my time as Treasurer, I aided library administration in setting up a defined reserve structure and in establishing forward-looking capital improvement planning and budget processes. I hope to continue working on understanding and stabilizing the long-term financial health of the library, anticipating challenges before they become problems.
What infrastructure or remodeling issues remain to be resolved at the library?
The library continually strives to optimize its small space. The library is currently pursuing an opportunity to reclaim space from a mechanical room and convert it to usable patron space. If the logistics prove feasible, this would provide an exciting opportunity for increased community meeting and programming space. Over the next few years, the library might also look at updating the public meeting room. The library should also continually review how space, including the front garden, is being used for different groups at different times in order to enhance existing spaces.