GENEVA – The five hopefuls vying for four four-year terms on the Geneva Public Library board in the April 2 consolidated election each made the case for their candidacy at a March 6 forum.
Incumbents Ellen Fultz-Schmid, Dana Hintz, Patricia Lord and Robert Shiffler and challenger Clare Fitzgerald each spoke at the forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County and held at Geneva Middle School North.
Fitzgerald, who is a professional writer working in marketing, said she supported the library referendum which led to the current building of a new facility on Sixth Street in Geneva.
“A more modern library that continually evolves and help people access information … I would also like to work toward delivering those services and creating a more welcoming, inspiring and vibrant environment,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald is running because she believes in the importance of civic engagement “so voters have choices and benefit from fresh perspectives.”
With her background in communications, Fitzgerald said she would be able to contribute her skills to promote the library as “its resources are almost hidden.”
Schmid, who is finishing her first term on the board, said she was also an employee at the library for 13 years, doing story times, ACT preparation tests and teaching library patrons how to download ebooks onto their new Kindles.
Schmid is currently a law librarian for the Kane County Law Library and Self Help Legal Center and winner of the Kane County Liberty Bell Award for promoting a better understanding of the law and civic responsibility.
“This speaks to the skills and talents I can contribute to the library board … and in contributing to a 21st century library,” Schmid said.
Hintz, who has worked at the St. Charles Public Library for more than 10 years, said before she ran for her first term, she researched the role of library trustee.
“I learned what makes an excellent board member: it’s passion. Passion and dedication for libraries,” Hintz said. “I spent many hours researching the role of trustee in the role of governance and oversight, strategic planning, policy, fiscal responsibility, advocacy and maintaining a quality library director."
Hintz said she would like to continue to see the new library through its construction and the transition to the new building.
Lord, who is the attorney for the city of Napervillle, also worked on the Geneva Library Foundation.
First elected in 2011, Lord said she is seeking a third term on the board.
“Each and every one of the trustees is dedicated and passionate and works so hard," Lord said. "I’d love the opportunity to finish the job we began.”
Lord said her goals were to add more hours to the library – which occurred, with an additional hour on Fridays and Sundays.
Shiffler, who is retired from working in engineering management, has been on the library board for seven years, the last four as president.
Shiffler said he would like to continue serving to see the completion of the new building through the transition of the library’s operations there.
“I believe strongly in continuity of leadership to make sure we meet all project objectives,” Shiffler said.
In his role as board president, Shiffler participated in negotiations to buy the land, the selection of building design, approval by the city of Geneva, the sale of two bond issues and construction contract approval.
“The library is another major step forward in library services that I want to continue to be a part of,” Shiffler said. “With value for all, regardless of age or stage of life.”
Advantages of the new library
To a question about what advantages the new library will bring to library services, Schmid said she has been working in the current location for 13 years and looks forward to the new building.
“I can speak first-hand for how woefully behind we are,” Schmid said. “We do a great job, so I am in no way disrespecting the institution. But since the time I began work there, we are landlocked. We are in an old building. We cannot begin to offer the services that a new library can offer in the 21st century.”
Hintz said she is also excited about what the new library can bring to the community.
“What this means is increased programs, increased community engagement,” Hintz said. “Places for the community to come. There will always be books, but libraries are so much more. They are community hubs, they are social hubs where people come to collaborate and work together …They are places where you go for awesome programs.”
Lord said the current library has been there since 1896 and she will miss it despite the space that will be available in the new facility.
“There will be room to be quiet and quiet spaces. … We will have indoor and outdoor areas to read and another fireplace,” Lord said. “ A community room [that will be] large enough for 200 people. …there will be more programming. … It will be enormously more convenient for everybody.”
Shiffler said the new facility will be ADA compliant and have more space for conferences and meeting spaces.
“We have got one small study room that is reserved around 140 times a month,” Shiffler said of the current facility. “It’s going to be a major benefit to the community.”
Fitzgerald said the new facility’s drive-up will be extremely helpful to the public.
Biggest challenges in 10 years
To a question of what will be the biggest challenges facing the library in the next 10 years, Lord and Shiffler said it will be making the transition to the new library.
“We are going to have the space we never had in our new library,” Lord said. “It has to be done with the right people and staff. We will have a staffing consultant to identify the right staffing needs and people as we move forward.”
Shiffler said the transition will be the next challenge while technology will continue to change.
Fitzgerald said being creative and focusing on bringing new people into the library will be the biggest ongoing challenge.
Schmid said she would invite more members of the public to attend board meetings and encourage more community members to reach out.
“We can’t imagine technology in 10 years,” Schmid said.
But the spaces in the new library were designed to be flexible and open to changing trends, Schmid said.
Hintz said an aging demographic requires that the library “make sure we are meeting the needs of all ages at all stages of life.”
As to what will happen to the current library building once they move to the new facility, incumbents said since the City of Geneva is not interested in buying it, they will sell it.