Jennifer Erickson: 2021 candidate for Helen M. Plum Memorial Public Library District 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.
Occupation: Director of Enrollment and Management and Marketing, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago
Civic involvement: In 2018, I spent weekends canvassing across DuPage County. I have supported the Benedictine University Model United Nations Program High School Conference, providing some review of preconference materials and participating in conference committee
sessions. As was the case for many, 2020 was a challenging year. My spouse worked as a front-line health care worker in a COVID ICU, so we greatly limited our in-person contact, but I participated in virtual phone banking.
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: Serving on the Helen Plum Library Board is an opportunity to support and give back to my community. In preparing to run for this position, I listened to community members describe how they use the library -- and why they aren't using it more. I heard frustration about
the time it has taken to move to the new library. As a Trustee, I will promote transparency in board communication with the Lombard community to promote greater confidence in board decisions. I want to serve on the library board to support our community through this exciting period of change, and to be a strong advocate for the library. Additionally, I have extensive experience managing budgets, both operational and revenue targets. I've been recognized by my colleagues as someone who can be relied on to build relationships, collaborate, and focus on solutions when solving problems. Just a few years ago, our entire division moved into a new building, and I have experience with the opportunities and challengesthat can come with such a major change. These skills, practical budget management, the ability to build relationships, and experience managing change, are essential to move the library forward.
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: I appreciated that the library made quick pivots to offering curbside pickup for residents. This was fairly easy to navigate on the website, and allowed residents to still access books in a way that prioritized safety. Overall, I heard mostly positive feedback
from residents regarding this change, with some desire for more expanded pickup hours. Additionally, I did not experience any disruption in my use of the Libby app. When canvassing, I met two residents that were participating in the virtual book clubs the
Library was hosting, and they were very pleased with this resource. Overall, I was pleased with the service the library offered during this time, and I appreciate that they accommodated a variety of needs.
Q: Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?
A: I am a big fan of the Libby app! I've been using it for some time, and like that it syncs to my Kindle, it's easy to renew books, and if you do not renew the book it is automatically returned. I currently have about three books I've placed a hold on through the
app, but I recently realized I can also read texts like The Economist through Libby, so I have a copy of that checked out right now. I do think it can be hard to find some of the most recent releases, but I've regularly been able to find a great book.
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: The pandemic has been incredibly challenging in so many ways, but it has also been a learning opportunity. In my professional role, we are asking how we can use those lessons to make positive changes. What has the pivot to virtual told us about how we engage with
our stakeholders? Are there changes that led to an increase in usage? Did these changes make the library more accessible to others? If elected, I would look forward to working with the library and the community to understand how residents have engaged with
the library during the pandemic, and what we can learn or change. We should also reach out to other libraries to learn what worked best for their community and staff, and if this is something we could adopt. If we face a future public health crisis, I would
work closely with staff, the community, and public health experts to understand how we can still serve the community, while keeping everyone safe. The library has demonstrated that they can make quick pivots to provide resources to residents, and the new library
will have more space and a more convenient drop-off for residents, all of which would be important assets should we face another health crisis.
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: During this four year term, I will be focused on working with the Board, staff, and larger community to lead us forward in moving into our new location. I also would like to explore opportunities for the library to best serve the community as a sustainable community
hub. For example, the larger library could support small businesses in the community by providing free meeting spaces, hosting workshops, creating Makerspaces, and more. I'm looking forward to my son using and loving the library the same way I loved our local library when I was growing up.
Q: Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
A: Yes! I have had it for a number of years. In the past year I have mostly used it in connection with the Libby app, but I was recently very excited to visit the library in person and check out some books for my son. He's really into cars and trucks right now. Before the pandemic one
of our first family outings was attending a Toy Story event at the library. My son was so little, but it's a really fond memory. I'm looking forward to making more of these memories in the new library!