Gayathri Kalyanaraman: 2023 candidate for Vernon Area Public Library District board of trustees


Town: Buffalo Grove

Age on Election Day: 47

Occupation: Administrative assistant

Employer: Daniel Wright Junior High School

Previous offices held: None


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: When we moved here with our two small children, one of the first places we stopped by was the library. The programs and facilities proved to be an invaluable resource as we settled into the community. Volunteering at the library was my way of paying back being involved in the library and community. I see the trustee position as an extension of what I have always been doing, giving my time and efforts to make sure that the library, that is so crucial to the cohesiveness of the community, continues to expand its programs and resources. No other institution is as respected, trusted, open and inclusive as a public library - where everyone is welcome, and everyone benefits from its programs and facilities. In this community, with changing demographics, it is the one place where all members of the community feel included, irrespective of age, gender, or language. Such an institution deserves to be cherished, served, and kept accessible and relevant.

Q: Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?

A: VAPLD has seen an increase in the use of online material, over the last couple of years. It continues to add

to its online resources and several classes are also available virtually. This trend is unlikely to abate, and the library is in a unique position to offer a wide range of reliable information, in just a few clicks. In addition to online material, being part of the national network, it can greatly expand the availability of books to its patrons. When my husband was looking for a rare and specialized book for reference, it was not available locally but we were able to locate and request it through the interlibrary network. The collection and diversification of programs and resources is an ongoing process, and includes offering more e-books, journals, and classes, in multiple languages. With Digital media makerspace, more laptops/ tablets for checkout, virtual job fairs - there is a vast array of opportunities for the library to meet the digital needs of the 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: Library not only serves as a repository books and information, but it is also truly the one public institution that offers a safe space for members of our very diverse community to interact in a meaningful way. "A palace of the people" as Andrew Carnegie eloquently described, the library holds and fosters the feeling of community among its patrons. I see the library as a trusted, inclusive public institution, with an incredible repository of information, both local and global.

The varied facilities and resources, and the knowledgeable staff are our strongest assets. In this increasingly digital world, the library remains a haven for those who seek to find knowledge, challenge our thinking, and broaden our horizons. I would like to see the library expand its content and programs, offer more opportunities for middle and high school students to become involved, and increase its digital presence.

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: As a trustee, it is my hope to augment the reach of this star library by fostering new, meaningful relationships with every resident of our community. In my view, with the ever-changing demographic of our community, it is important is to be "heard." It is an incredible and trustworthy repository of information - that is relevant and useful to not only long-term residents but also newer members of the community. But all the efforts are moot if the information about it cannot reach the intended audience. In an increasingly digital world, we not only need to diversify the programs currently offered, but we also need to be creative in getting them out to the public. A digital board outside the library, mobile book carts to schools, bi/multilingual programs both virtual and in person, workshops at high schools, more active presence in social media, are some ways to bring the library and its wide array of services to closer to the people.

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

A: Me and all my family members have been VAPLD card holders, for as long as we can remember. We signed up for them when we moved here 13 years ago. For my children, getting their own library card was a right of passage, and they were proud to be able to checkout books and games on their own account. Over the years, from books on potty training, to telescopes, to Go-Pro for vacations, to 3D printer and eBooks during the pandemic, we have benefited from many of the library resources. However, what I value most, are the people I have to come to know over the years through the library. As a patron, then as a volunteer book shelves, and later as an employee serving the front desk, I have met a wide cross-section of the community, from our seniors, busy professionals, curious youngsters and new parents. I have an appreciation of how much impact VAPLD has on their lives.

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: After I moved into this community, I became actively engaged as a volunteer both at the library and at the school. I am currently employed as an administrative assistant in a middle school in the district. I served as the communications director of the school PTO board and helped setup and manage their website and Facebook page. I also managed the communications for the Band Parent Association at Stevenson High School. In these roles, I understood the importance of "getting the word out" and the ways to get closer to the target audience. All my roles have required me to understand the needs of the various stakeholders and work collaboratively with them for the overall success of their endeavors. I have learnt to listen to different points of view and engage in rational discussion to arrive at solutions that are mutually beneficial. It is this strength that I hope to harness as a library board member, to ensure the library to stay relevant and accessible to the members of the community.

Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?

A: What sets me apart is the different facets of my decade of association with the library as a patron, a volunteer, an employee and presently as an institutional stakeholder. As an associate in the circulation department, I had the opportunity to be involved in the daily library operations AND serve the patrons. I understand needs of our community and the many ways the library can provide programs and resources to meet the changing needs of the community, especially post-pandemic. The library has the incredible opportunity to make an impact in the life of its members and having an insight into the needs of the patrons along with the awareness of the incredible potential of our library staff and the practical operational limitations will help me contribute to making the library stay connected and relevant in these ever-changing times.

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