Gail Borden library candidates disagree on remodeling
Two of the six candidates running for the Gail Borden Public Library board said they don't support spending money to remodel the first floor of the main library in downtown Elgin, while the rest say it's a good idea to maximize the use of the space.
The library hired an architectural firm in November to draw plans for the project, and the rough estimate last summer was $611,000, library Executive Director Carole Medal said. The library would seek bids for the project to be funded by reserves, not a tax increase, she said.
"There is far too much space devoted to staff and we want to open that up to the public," Medal said. "We will also be able to bring collections down from the second to the first floor."
Candidates Penny Wegman and Randy Hopp, who each served on the library board until 2013, said they are not in favor of the plan during a forum held earlier this week at the library and organized by the League of Women Voters of the Elgin Area.
"I feel any increase or any use of money to beautify a project at this point in time is not the best course of action," Wegman said.
Incumbents Herb Gross and Jean Bednar, and challenger Donna Kline, disagreed.
"It's not (about) beautification but following the trends and bringing what's relevant to patrons," Bednar said. The increased use of technology has made the plan possible, library officials said.
Incumbent Carlos Chavez said in a separate interview remodeling is a good idea. "I don't see why not, but that's based on the (final) money (estimate)," he said.
Trustees must always ask good questions of staff members, Kline said, adding her priority is to continue fostering the library's community partnerships. She said she also wants to improve parking access for elderly patrons.
Gross said his volunteer work as a library greeter is a great source of ideas from the public. It's important to be responsive to the community's needs and stay on top of technology, he said.
"There are not too many things that I would say are being run badly," he said, and Bednar agreed.
Bednar said the library must continue reaching out to unserved residents. Trustees also must be good financial stewards, she said.
Hopp said he wants to push for timely financial transparency and "not be a puppet" to Medal's wishes. Hopp is banned from the Rakow branch on Bowes Road, and for a few years was banned from the main library -- allowed only to attend board meetings -- after staff members complained of harassing behavior.
The library should spend money "wisely not loosely," said Wegman, who also wants to focus on technology and ensure individual employees get more recognition for their work.
Hopp said he wouldn't support building a library branch in South Elgin, a topic that's been discussed in recent years.
"It would be a great deal for the people of South Elgin, but for the people of Hoffman Estates, Streamwood and Bartlett, they get stuck paying the overwhelming majority of the expense," Hopp said.
Kline said it's something "worth considering." Wegman said the initiative would need voters' approval, with which the other candidates agreed.
All the candidates said they'd be reluctant to cut expenses or reduce services to trim the library's budget. Wegman said the library should make sure programs cater to patrons' needs. Hopp criticized a recent Lego exhibit.
Bednar called the library's taxes "one of best bargains you can get."
Having a vital library is as important as having good schools, Kline said. "It's a quality-of-life issue."