Amanda J. Garcia: 2023 candidate for Gail Borden Public Library District board
Age on Election Day: 36
Occupation: Business Owner; Marketing
Employer: ColorWord Creative, Inc
Previous offices held: Gail Borden Library board since 2017
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?
A: I believe libraries should exist to provide necessary resources and information to the community -- be it books, computers, classes, or a warm place to sip a coffee. I understand the need for reliable internet to submit a paper, and for a free way to get the kids out of the house. I understand access to the right software and equipment can be the difference between a musical talent stuck or soaring. I know what it's like to learn from, lean on, and fall in love with the library, and I believe that opportunity and all the goodness inside should be available to everyone.
Some of my priorities:
• Maintaining the highest standards of fiscal responsibility and accountability.
• Making our branches greener, including the addition of electric vehicle charging stations.
• The expansion of the South Elgin Branch.
• Creating more dedicated study space at the Main Branch.
• Ensuring effective communication about library benefits.
• Protecting access to diverse resources and education for all.
Q: Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?
A: In 2020, the board of trustees made the difficult decision to close all library branches to the public until COVID cases dropped enough to reopen. During that time, there was a significant increase in use of online materials -- patrons checking out more e-books and streaming more music and movies. The library responded by strengthening those services and collections, shifting energy into providing as many materials online as we had in person -- including online programming, live webinars, and videos. When people were stuck at home, Gail Borden made sure patrons could still access their library benefits in as many ways as possible.
I do believe we could do a better job promoting online resources -- Gail Borden offers so much that many patrons don't realize all the great stuff available at their fingertips (and I learn about more at every meeting!). So I would fully support a campaign to raise awareness of the many benefits available to patrons.
Q: What do you see as the future of role of libraries in the electronic age? How well prepared is your library for meeting that role? What new steps must the library begin taking?
A: It's imperative for library leadership to pay attention to what the public needs now, imagine what needs of the future, and ask outside-the-box questions to find the best way forward.
Do our customers need license plate stickers? A 3D printer? A recording studio? Historical records? Passports? Yes.
And tomorrow? In an "electronic age" more resources need to be available online, of course. As important is making sure everyone can access those resources via high-speed internet, devices, and classes to learn how to use it all.
I might also argue that in a truly electronic age, there may be a demand for more analog tools -- things that are commonplace now but may become a novelty. The "library of things" currently includes Chromebooks, hot spots, and a telescope, but perhaps in the future it ought to offer gardening tools, yoga mats, tap shoes ... Who knows?
It depends on the community's needs, and yes, I do believe GBPL is prepared to take on that role (and in many cases, already has).
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: Over the last six years, I have helped guide library leadership through the twists and turns of a worldwide shutdown, navigating the move to online programming and new safety protocols. I've been proud to vote for HR policies that protect all employees, including a rolling process to raise pay for our lowest tier staff ahead of the $15/hour minimum wage requirement. I voted to approve the addition of the KCT branch to the main library, passport and license plate services, and the launch of the Bookmobile. It has been a joy to serve on the nominating committee that recommended our last three appointed trustees. Most recently, I fully supported the library's request for a federal grant that will allow us to nearly triple the usable space at the South Elgin Branch without asking for more money from the taxpayers.
Q: Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
A: Yes, I have a library card. I got my first card when I moved to Elgin in 2003. I use it at least monthly to listen to audiobooks, check out books and toys for my toddlers, as well as books for myself. I visit the library more often than I use my card, and find that some of the best things available to us don't require checking anything out at all!
Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions of your library board.
A: I was appointed to the board of trustees in 2017 and then elected to a full term in 2019. I served as treasurer for two years before being elected to vice president in 2021.
In addition to that experience, I am a current board member of the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce and Elgin Community Bikes, and I have served on several other nonprofit boards. I also founded a small company that requires regular work in group settings (both with my internal leadership team and with clients') to strategize and make decisions.
My approach is collaborative, to start by asking questions and listening well, to set key objectives and work backwards to determine measurable goals along the way. I enjoy facilitating conversation, "yes, and" brainstorming sessions, and then summarizing and delegating action items. This approach has served me well in my life and career, both on and off the GBPL board of trustees.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: My 6+ years of experience on the board, which has been short enough to still be learning, and long enough to have better questions to ask.
I have the perspective of a former student, current small business owner, homeowner, and mother of 1- and 2-year-old children in Elgin, all of which inform my decisions on the board.
I hold a BA in Communications from Judson University and an MBA from Southern Illinois University, both of which have equipped me to lend valuable input to a wide variety of library projects -- everything from annual budget approval to special library events.
Through my work as founder and CEO of ColorWord Creative, I am fortunate to be immersed in both the business and nonprofit sectors of our community.
I am passionate about literature, education, and serving my community by helping lead our library to deliver resources our patrons need to thrive.