Kate Garrett: Candidate profile
Name: Kate Garrett
Office sought: Batavia Public Library District Trustee
Family: Spouse and three children ages 7, 5, and 4
Occupation: Heritage Interpreter at Kline Creek Farm
Education: BA from Lawrence University majoring in Classical Studies and Art History
Civic involvement: Democratic Precinct Committeeperson Batavia Precinct 2, Batavia Township Democrats Treasurer, school volunteer
Previous elected offices held: Batavia Library Trustee
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected? Yes, 2017
What are the most important issues facing your library district and how do you intend to address them?
Batavia Public Library is fortunate to have librarians and support staff who have dedicated their careers to understanding the needs of library patrons and finding creative ways to meet those needs. Unfortunately, for years staff have been compensated far below the state recommendations for libraries of Batavia's size and are presently working with tools and in spaces that keep them from reaching their potential. It's time for the Batavia Public Library to empower staff to deliver the services patrons seek. We can do that by examining workspaces and optimizing them to be more efficient, investing in modern tools, and recognizing the valuable work the staff undertakes. Our building is often cited as one of the most beautiful and welcoming libraries in the region, to our great pride. It draws residents from other towns and is a cornerstone of the downtown Batavia community. We need to plan now to manage the facility so that it ages beautifully and take responsibility for maintenance projects when they are manageable rather than deferring them to an unknown future. Libraries provide outstanding ROI, at a rate of about 5 to 1, a fact we can do better at communicating to build long lasting community support.
Why are you running for office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what is it?
Libraries have been a force for great good in my life: they excited me about the wider world, helped me get my education, and now let me share the joy of discovery with my children. The staff, trustees, and taxpayers who supported those institutions gave me so much; it's my turn to give something back. In 2017, when I learned that two months out from the election there were more open seats on the board than candidates on the ballot, I stepped up to run a write-in campaign. I wanted to make sure my community library could thrive, and that it would be supported by someone who recognizes how important libraries are. I knew my career background as an educator working within a government body would be a needed complementary perspective on the board and I knew I was willing to serve. Libraries foster informed and engaged communities and offer careful guardianship of our cultural resources. That's something I want to protect for my kids and for my neighbors. Two years later my top priorities remain securing a sustainable path forward for the library and guaranteeing fair access to the information and services libraries have always offered me.
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.
The first meeting I attended as a trustee-elect, even before being sworn in, was a special presentation of the Capital Asset Study, a guiding document prepared by construction experts outlining 20 years of maintenance and repairs needed to keep the building from falling into disrepair. The costs far exceeded the budgeted funds for capital maintenance. Clearly, the most important thing I could do in my term would be to prepare the library for the future by finding a way to keep the roof on. I helped select a team of local leaders to undertake a community engagement initiative so that we could find out what the community expected from their library and how we could meet those expectations. The result of this process was a successful referendum that fully funds all projected capital maintenance expenses until 2037 without raising the tax rate one penny. The accomplishment I am most personally gratified by with was working with library staff and Learning Resource Center staff at Batavia Public Schools to increase library card enrollment for elementary school students. Kids who have library cards have better academic outcomes and I intend to give this project greater focus in my next term.
Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
Yes, I signed up for my library card as soon as I moved to Batavia in 2015. I got my first card as soon as I was old enough, with my mom's help, and I've made getting my card a priority wherever I've lived. I hope to share the love of libraries that my mom instilled in me with my own children and we check out stacks of material on each of our weekly library visits. To focus on our time together in Youth Services, I usually search the catalog for a book for me before our visit. It's a special luxury to have time to explore the stacks or the local history room, though that will always be my favorite way to enjoy the library. I get wonderful recommendations from my well-read friends, and I often use the Library's app to place a hold in the middle of a conversation, so I don't forget to follow up later. I've even used Hoopla to borrow items in the middle of the night. The services my card gives me access to are diverse: I borrow audiobooks, DVDs, and video games, register for programs, use the computer lab, and much more.
What impact have economic and technological changes had on libraries? How does a library remain relevant? How should its role in the community change?
Libraries are versatile community spaces where people pursue lifelong learning. They compete well in a digital culture, offering patrons the option to download digital materials or search databases from the comfort of their homes. They also satisfy the growing appetite for a tangible interface with information and with each other. For example, Batavia Public Library offers meeting spaces that are booked months out, and newspapers on newsprint you can delve into near the fireplace in the quiet reading room, but they also offer Hoopla services, where patrons can digitally borrow e-books, movies, TV shows and more. Constituents have asked me to support both more progressive technology and initiatives like maker spaces, which illustrate the exponential effect of being a public space that combines the digital and tactile spheres. The critical component in staying on top of changing trends is to have professional library staff who can keep current with modern library science. Batavia Public Library is lucky to have staff in many departments who are recognized as industry leaders. Fundamentally, libraries are democratic spaces where knowledge can be freely shared with an entire community; that kind of space will always remain relevant in a society that values individual liberty.