Kristine O'Sullivan: 2021 candidate for Mount Prospect Library Trustee
Three candidates for two 6-year terms
Hometown: Mount Prospect
Occupation: Communications Manager
Employer: ISACA (association for IT professionals)
Civic involvement: Current member of Mount Prospect Public Library board of trustees; annual School Supply Drive coordinator for Fairview Elementary School's Parent Teacher Organization
Q. Why are you running for the library board? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. A public library is one of the pillars of a community, and this is very much true in Mount Prospect. A public library is one of the few places where all are welcome to gather, learn, and share without the expectation of purchase. The resources available for everyone, the atmosphere of respect and kindness, and the dedication of staff and volunteers to foster the growth of others are why public libraries are foundational to democracy and community. MPPL plays a large role in my family and our connection to our village. I am passionate about providing quality education and opportunities to connect for all residents. I am most motivated to represent the families of Mount Prospect who look to the community that a library provides to connect with others and learn.
I am a communications professional with 20 years of experience working for professional associations, focusing on delivering educational and engaging content to members. My expertise is readily transferable to helping a library enact strategy for communicating its value to patrons, find new ways to engage with community members, and embrace new technologies to bring library programming and materials to the patrons without requiring them to visit a branch.
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. This pandemic has been economically devastating for many community members, and the MPPL has resources that can have a real impact, like being able to check out a Chromebook with a hot spot for use at home. MPPL staff have shown creativity in ensuring that patrons still have access to materials: drive-up pickup, home delivery, items from the "Library of Things." We are going to test pickup lockers for materials; if successful, I can envision lockers in far-reaching areas of the community.
I would love to see an expanded selection of live and recorded educational sessions. There was less of an emphasis on programming in 2020 than I would like to see for the coming year. Now is the time for the library to shine: hosting virtual events and community chats, featuring experts, artists, writers, and leaders to engage all ages with opportunities to learn, create and meet others. We should be the first place that patrons think of when they want to learn, connect, and be a part of a community. There is a talented staff, great leadership, and lots of creative patrons to help make the library even more accessible, fun and a cornerstone of our community.
Q. Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?
A. MPPL staff keeps great records of what items are most checked out and I appreciate its use of analytics to determine how to spend budget. They have found, through requests for holds and through checkouts, that the demand for physical items is still high despite the record-breaking demand for online materials. As a recent report noted about physical items, "despite significantly limited access for about 50% of the year, our overall circulation only dropped 20% as compared to last year." For electronic circulation, there was a massive 63% increase as compared to 2019.
As with every organization, marketing and communications is key to ensuring our stakeholders know what we offer and how they can benefit. I am pleased that MPPL is undergoing a branding campaign in 2021 to ensure a clear message and consistency in promoting all the wonderful resources and opportunities at the library. The library has done a fantastic job in adding electronic assets to the collection, and we will continue to improve how we promote it.
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. I was sworn into the library board in September 2020 to fill a vacancy. I have not been a board member long enough to have made a significant impact, but I have offered my writing skills and my observations as a patron to lead in several ways. These include: creating a new tool to use for the executive director's annual assessment; reviewing current budget and asking questions about 2021 forecast; confirming the decision to eliminate late fees for materials, including post-pandemic; and helping to spread the word about temporary pandemic-related closures and reopening.
I am excited for the 2021 goals, which include a rebranding exercise to ensure all library marketing is aligned; investing in the South branch to ensure its patrons have updated furnishings and resources to enjoy; trying new pickup lockers for reserved materials, both on library property as well as in corners of the Village that are more convenient for patrons; reviewing the MPPL equity, diversity and inclusion policies to ensure all patrons are served by the resources, programming and leadership of the library; and continually monitoring the budget so that we are spending more money on new materials for patrons.
Q. Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
A. Yes, I have a MPPL card -- I was so happy to receive it as soon as my family moved to Mount Prospect in 2015, and my daughter was thrilled to hear her name over the loudspeaker when she received hers. I wish I had more time to check out books (the best book I read in 2020 was Bernadine Evaristo's "Girl, Woman, Other," which I found on a new-books display at MPPL), but my husband makes great use of the awesome parking garage pickup service. We also love checking out DVDs and participating in the seasonal reading challenges.