Phyllis A. Dobbs: 2021 candidate for Cook Memorial Library board
Four candidates for three seats.
Occupation: Controller for Small Non-Profits
Employer: Python Software Foundation and Consultant
Civic involvement: IRS/AARP Tax Preparer, Clarinetist for Libertyville Village Band
Q: Why are you running for the library board, whether for re-election or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: Providing service to all while acting as a responsible employer has been a cornerstone of my current term and is why I am running for re-election. In fact, public service is a focus of my professional life as Controller for small non-profits and also in my volunteer life as a tax preparer for the IRS/AARP program. As a CPA/MBA, I bring professional skills to the Library for various financial/human resource matters including: construction and financing savings for the Aspen branch expansion; fiscal responsibility with budget adjustments to go fine free permanently, abate the 2020 tax levy 100%, and add sick pay benefits for part time staff. In 2020, I pushed for the Board to conduct a complete review of all policies to ensure that we are committed to our mission of diversity, equity, and inclusion for all patrons. In a second term, I'd like to continue that work, including adding an ethics and code of conduct policy for the Board. Our Bookmobile provides key outreach service to outlying areas of the district; I'd like to work on continuing financing options to ensure that Cook continues to provide a high level of outreach services to the community.
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: To act responsibly to both our patrons and staff, the library closed in-person service in March 2020. Throughout the pandemic, we reviewed and updated best practices based on research about COVID-19 virus's life on common library material. We also used state guidance on occupancy and other regulations to ensure the safest environment possible. Although our doors were closed, we continued to provide support by phone and email and pivoted to virtual programming, which has been well-received by patrons. The library recently doubled the number of circulating use at home when the in-library computers weren't available.
Q: Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?
A: Ensuring a rich and engaging online catalogue is a focus of Cook Memorial Public Library. Over the past several years, Cook, like many libraries, has seen a demand shift from print materials to electronic materials. To increase accessibility to these materials for patrons, we increased the budget for ebooks, audiobooks, and online music and movies through free platforms like Hoopla, Overdrive/Libby, and Kanopy. We also provide online access to newspapers and magazines.
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: Cook Memorial Public Library is dedicated to the health and safety of our patrons and staff. The Library created a detailed, tiered model for managing service levels to provide the safest environment possible. These models include varying levels of in-person access to services and materials, as well as setting and adjusting quarantine lengths for materials returned from patrons.
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 my first term serving Cook Memorial Public Library, I brought my background in public accounting, educational publishing, and the non-profit world to serve the Library. From 2017 to 2019 the Library planned, constructed, and reopened the Aspen Drive branch; I translated intricate financial concepts around financing options for the Board, which ultimately saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest costs. In 2020, as the library considered options to best support patrons while the branches were closed, I requested doubling our mobile hotspots and adding circulating Chromebooks to our technology offerings. From my early days on the Board, I was concerned that our part-time staff did not have sick-pay benefits and worked to add this important benefit to further secure the health and safety of staff and patrons. Most recently, in working with our great staff, I pushed for the library to go both fine free permanently and to abate the 2020 tax levy increase in full; these two moves increase access to library services and materials while reducing the financial impact to all patrons and taxpayers.
Q: Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
A: Yes, I have had a library card at Cook Memorial Public Library since I moved back to the area in 1999. I use my card so often that I have memorized the number; I typically visit one of our branches multiple times a week and also check out and manage my account via our new app.