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updated: 2/22/2013 6:03 PM

Patricia Harkin: Candidate Profile

Gail Borden Library Board (4-year Terms) (Democrat)

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  • Patricia Harkin, running for Gail Borden Library Board (4-year Terms)

    Patricia Harkin, running for Gail Borden Library Board (4-year Terms)




Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A



City: Elgin


Office sought: Gail Borden Library Board (4-year Terms)

Age: 68

Family: Married to James Sosnoski. We have two sons and four grandchildren.

Occupation: Retired (2011) as Professor of English and communication studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I also served as an Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. I have taught English at the university level since 1977.

Education: BA, English, University of Kentucky, 1965; MA, English, University of Virginia, 1967; Ph.D., English, Miami University of Ohio, 1977.

Civic involvement: Volunteer since 2011 at Gail Borden Public Library, where I've worked with Gail's Sales, the Library Foundation Book Sale, shelving, facilitating an interest group, and other special events. (Approximately 200 hours.) Board Member, Northeast Neighborhood Association of Elgin: I edit NENA's newsletter and have chaired several fund raising events. Our home has appeared twice on NENA's Homes for the Holidays House Tour and once on the Gifford Park Association House Tour. American Association of University Women Newberry Library Book Sale. Volunteer (working) Board service for the National Council of Teachers of English, Midwest Modern Language Association; College English Association of Ohio, among others.

Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

ACCESS. Today, in this economy, Gail Borden Library not only provides access to printed information, but also serves the community by offering free classes that help district residents to improve their skills, find a new job, start a new business, etc. I support continuing and expanding policies that 1. enhance access to the library itself--through providing technology to persons who might not be able to afford the hardware, software, or internet access that will help them learn a new language, find a job, open a business, etc. I'd also urge enhancing old fashioned access. Library volunteers already deliver materials to patrons who find it difficult to travel, but we need more volunteers for this important service as our population ages. I'd also like to keep the library open later on weekends. 2. enhance access to skills and services that residents might not otherwise be able to afford, for example, by offering more classes in computer skills, tax preparations, business skills, etc. This emphasis on access, in my view, will ultimately improve the local economy by making library users more employable.

Key Issue 2

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY. To the extent that my suggestions above are costly, I would support finding ways to save and make money through increased reliance on GBPL's excellent volunteers, more fund raising events, more grant applications, and partnerships with other local organizations.

Key Issue 3

PARTNERSHIPS. I believe that the best way to improve literacy (of all kinds) in the population we serve is through collaboration between public libraries and school libraries. Technological advances, especially new media, make this goal easier to achieve than it would have been even five years ago. Specifically, I'd urge the Library to investigate the possibilities of MOOC's--massive online open courses-in partnership colleges and universities.

Questions & Answers

Why are you running for this office, whether for re-election or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?

I've devoted my entire career to improving literacy, broadly understood. As a college professor, I have directed writing programs at three universities and written or edited three books about teaching literacy skills--including a textbook on reading. Now that I've retired from university teaching, I'd like to offer these skills to the library and the community I've grown to love.

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 special contributions you could make.

Candidate did not respond.

Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?

Yes. I have had a library card since 2002, when I moved to Elgin. I use it about once a week.

Space is usually an issue at libraries. If that's the case at your library, would your solution be to expand the physical plant or make room by doing away with parts of the collection that technology has made less critical? Explain.

Space has not yet become a critical issue at GBPL, largely because the library management already (wisely) sells less frequently used materials through the very successful Gail's Sales, the Library foundation Book Sale and even commercial outlets. Thus the library (or, more precisely, the Library Foundation) actually makes money by selling under-used resources. A good example would be reference books: for the cost of a good encyclopedia (that begins to go out of date as soon as it's published and takes up a lot of space) the Library can purchase at least one computer terminal on which patrons can access a world of informational sources with the guidance of a trained librarian. It is often possible to download library materials to a personal computer from a remote location. Not everyone has personal access to the internet or the relevant hardware or software, however. Gail Borden has addressed this problem through the construction of a physical computer center, and with agreements with Nook and Kindle that allow patrons to borrow not only an e-book, but also the technology on which to read it. I support these policies and if elected will work to continue and expand them. I see no immediate need for more physical space at GBPL. I strongly support increased use of technology.

What impact have economic and technological changes had on libraries? How does a library remain relevant? How should its role in the community change?

The notion of a free public library is deeply intertwined with the history of the United States as a democracy. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and the other founders realized that a strong nation depends on an informed citizenry, and libraries, in the 18th century as well as the 21st, offer a way for citizens to inform themselves. Even though printed books are no longer the only source of information, libraries remain relevant as a place where members of a community can learn what they need to learn at little or no expense, thereby becoming more productive citizens. In the 21st century, libraries, especially the Gail Borden Library, have become much more than simple brick and mortar repositories for printed books. Current library theory uses the term "commons" to describe the new relevance of these old institutions. The library provides both a physical space and institutional auspices for people to come together to learn what they need to know to make it in a difficult economy, to learn a new computer program, prepare their taxes, consider their religious beliefs, home school their children, live a healthier life, and so on. In this way, the library is like the "commons" of early American history--where citizens came together to help one another, teach and learn from one another, socialize, argue, exchange ideas, and, most important, help one another. The award-winning Gail Borden Library has been exemplary in this context.