Laura Valenziano: 2021 candidate for Cook Memorial Library board
Four candidates for three seats.
Hometown: Vernon Hills
Occupation: Human Resources
Employer: Walgreens Boots Alliance
Civic involvement: Library Board Trustee
Q: Why are you running for the library board, whether for re-election or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: I am a current Cook Memorial Library Trustee running for reelection. My passion for libraries is imbedded in the fact that libraries are not just repositories of information. We are places of cooperative education, and our culture and services must reflect the diversity of the communities that we serve. Being on the library board is a position of immense trust, as our libraries are the hearts of our communities, a safe haven for our children, and a nonjudgmental resource for our senior citizens. When I was collecting signatures for my application packet, I asked the community what the library means to them. And this is what I heard: "Connections." "Trust." "Safety." "Love." If reelected, I will continue to champion equality and access. fiscal responsibility, accessibility, and partnerships with local business and schools.
Q: Did your library continue to adequately serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to continue providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A: The Cook Memorial Library has continued to adequately serve its constituents. We quickly put in place a reserve online and pick-up onsite model to ensure patrons could continue to access content, and we also recently rolled out a new mobile app. So even during the pandemic we have continued to innovate to ensure and expand access to our library services.
Q: Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?
A: Yes, we have seen a massive shift toward the use of online materials, and have monitored our collections and patron feedback to ensure we are best meeting their needs. We also bumped up and expanded our online programs, which patrons can access directly from our website. Despite an expected dip, we do continue to see strong use of the reserve books online and pickup onsite model, even when our buildings were closed to the public.
Q: In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?
A: Like all of our peer libraries in Illinois, we actively monitor COVID-19 levels and activity, which resulted in us closing down twice during the 2020 year. Each time, we quickly pivoted to a contactless service model where patrons could reserve materials online and pick them up through a drive-up or lobby model. We also put in place a quarantine process for returned materials based on health guidelines. Masks are also required at all times while in the library for individuals over age two. These safety models were built to be flexible and can be leveraged in case of any future health crises that may occur.
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: My biggest accomplishment in my first six months as library trustee was voting to move the Cook Memorial Library to a fine free model. In 2019, the American Library Association declared monetary library fines as a form of social inequity, and it's important to me to push for equality wherever we can. I also voted to keep our tax levy flat this year to help ease the tax burden for our patrons.
Q: Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
A: Nearly 6 years, use several times a week to access online materials and reserve books. My family also visits the library in person quite often to browse materials and use the on-site services (when available due to COVID-19).