Julie Kowalski-Schmidt: 2021 candidate for Helen Plum Library board
Seven candidates are running for four, 4-year terms on the Helen M. Plum Memorial Public Library District board of trustees in the April 6 election.
They are incumbents Jason Brandt, John T. Larkin, Jr. and Susan Wiggins, and newcomers Kristin Anne Dittrich, Jennifer Erickson, Julie Kowalski-Schmidt, and Kelly Ann Simms.
The Daily Herald asked candidates to respond to a questionnaire about library issues.
Occupation: Public school educator, Darien Public Schools
Civic involvements: Helen Plum Library Foundation Board member
Q: Why are you running for the library board, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: I'm running for Helen Plum Library Trustee in Lombard because I believe the library is an important asset for residents from all backgrounds, filled with resources and programs outside of just books. The library and the community will benefit from my leadership, passion, experience as an educator, and my desire to serve the community as we embark on the development of our new library. I have seen through my work in education the value that access to books and libraries can provide. I believe that a strong library helps individuals of all ages and the community grow, which is critical as we look to a post-COVID world. My hope is that the new Helen Plum will be a place for the community to gather and learn.
Q: Did your library continue to adequately serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to continue providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A: Helen Plum did a terrific job adjusting to serving the residents of Lombard during the pandemic. They immediately began highlighting digital offerings to the community from e-books to online classes and they continue to amplify these resources on social media. During more restrictive phases of the pandemic, Helen Plum provided excellent online service to request books and schedule pickup of materials safely. I've been impressed by their ability to adjust to the changing phases and continue to accommodate constituents given a variety of restrictions. I have participated in several of the virtual children's events with my niece and nephew.
As an educator, I have been excited to see the free home schooling resources and other programming to help children and parents with learning from home. The librarians selecting books for the toddler book bags have gone above and beyond in selecting high interest books on the topics parents request. Overall, I have been very impressed with the communication and offerings from the library through the pandemic.
Q: Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?
A: Prior to the pandemic my husband and I used their online resources, from Hoopla to e-books, consistently. We did not see any interruption in these services as the pandemic hit and continue to see a dramatic increase in the number of online resources offered. The Libby app provides great digital audiobooks and e-books. Helen Plum offers online craft, history, language classes to name a few, in addition to the digital media offerings. Helen Plum's new website also highlights the new technology resources and provides easier access to all the programs available at the library.
Q: In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?
A: I would like to see a continued shift to applying for, renewing and accessing library cards online. Additionally, the new library building, when completed, will offer expanded space to accommodate social distancing as we acclimate to our new normal. The community will benefit as we're looking for a safe and inviting place to work, relax, or meet others outside of our homes. I hope to see many, if not all, of our online resources continue as the community benefits from free and enriching offerings.
I will work to ensure the library utilizes the newest technology to enhance offerings. And last, but not least, the convenience of their curbside pickup helps increase patron usage and engagement with the library by those who might otherwise find it challenging to make time for a trip to the library. One benefit of the new library will be the convenient drive through drop off and service window.
Q: If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of important initiatives you've led. If you are a non-incumbent, tell us what contributions you would make.
A: I am looking forward to shepherding in the new building with an eye on sustainability, both fiscal and environmental. The new library building is a great opportunity to make decisions that benefit the environment and the Village of Lombard taxpayers. It is also important to be fiscally responsible with the library's current resources and assets for both the current residents and future generations. I will continue to foster transparency between the library and the community, which is especially critical as our investment in the new building comes to fruition. I will be a steward of the library's core values, addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion among resources and offerings.
Q: Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it
A: Obtaining my Helen Plum library card was one of the first things I did after moving to Lombard 11 years ago. One of the reasons my husband and I chose our first house in Lombard was the proximity of the library since we knew we would walk up often. I use the library weekly, utilizing digital and physical materials, and online programs. I look forward to walking up with my niece and nephew to Helen Plum, post COVID, so they can sign up for their first library cards!