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posted: 3/28/2013 5:30 AM

Sugar Grove Library candidates discuss getting over past

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  • Pat Graceffa

      Pat Graceffa

  • Edward DeBartolo

      Edward DeBartolo

  • Robert Bergman

      Robert Bergman

 
 

The former president of the defunct Sugar Grove Friends of the Library is trying to win one of two 6-year terms on the library board as a write-in.

Pat Graceffa faces Montgomery resident Edward DeBartolo and Trustee Bob Bergman of Sugar Grove. Bergman has been on the board since 1997.

Graceffa and DeBartolo support each other, including having a joint open house for their candidacies. Graceffa was an outspoken critic of the board's firing of library director Beverly Holmes Hughes, walking a picket and speaking at meeting after raucous meeting. She defends the 2011 protests.

"A library is about freedom, exchanging opinions and ideas. So why wouldn't it be right for people to go out there and protest?" she said.

And the main issue seems to be overcoming the library's troubled past.

"Personally, it is time for a change," DeBartolo said. "It is time to bring it back to the community."

He started attending board meetings last year, and former Sugar Grove Township Dan Nagel suggested he run for the board. Nagel, too, had questioned how the library board conducted its business.

"This library will never run right for what is going on" with its dissension and not listening to the public's input, DeBartolo said.

He wants to repair the library's image by devising ways to get the community to come to the library, such as for business or club meetings. Boy and Girl Scouts and social clubs, such as a knitting group, used to use the library.

"Why and how they could lose all that" is beyond him, DeBartolo said. "It's hard to get them back."

He is not opposed to asking voters to increase taxes so the library can have more services and more hours. "The library can never be open enough," DeBartolo said. And if more people see the "beautiful" library, they may be more inclined to vote "yes" to an increase, he said.

"Because of the perception of the library out there, Sugar Grove is perceived as not being careful," Graceffa said, regarding its finances, management, listening to the public or obeying the Open Meetings Act.

"A lot of people out there are very unhappy."

The past is the past, however, she said.

"I'm not bringing Beverly (Holmes Hughes) back. ... I've moved on, and I don't want to look back."

Bergman said the library had management problems, but they are solved. "We have an excellent director who, along with our treasurer, has worked very hard to get us on budget, and open six days a week," he said. "We believe that things are going well."

Reining in the finances by "getting the right information" enabled the library to open two more days a week, he said. It will also help with the next goal: improving the materials collection, he said.

Bergman said he welcomes public input: "We surely appreciate hearing from you so that you can help us determine what would be the next best thing to do," he told the crowd at a recent forum for candidates.

Graceffa said now is not the time to ask voters for a tax increase. Maybe in 18 to 24 months, she said.

"We need to prove to the community we changed," she said.

Graceffa noted circulation has increased, as has the number of new library cards issued and the number renewed. "We know that the public is hungry for materials," she said.

And as for whether libraries will become obsolete with the advance of digital technology? "It drives me nuts when people say that," she said.

In particular, the library will be needed by people who can't afford the latest technologies. Bergman sees personal interaction with staff members as a benefit in developing a well-educated populace in the village and the country, starting with children.

Incumbent Anthony Oliver, who was appointed to the board, is unopposed for the library board's 4-year term. Louise Coffman seeks its 2-year term.

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