Amy Somary: 2021 candidate for Arlington Heights Library Trustee
Three candidates for one, 2-year term
Hometown: Arlington Heights
Occupation: Substitute teacher; spent most of my career as a public relations executive at Edelman Worldwide in Chicago before changing direction to raise my four sons. For the past nine years I have been working as a preschool instructional assistant, more recently as a substitute teacher.
Employer: Primarily Our Lady of the Wayside in Arlington Heights; St. Raymond in Mount Prospect
Civic involvement: My civic involvement has been primarily in relation to my parish and children. Past: Our Lady of the Wayside School Advisory Board (vice chair, board member); Family School Association (President, Vice President, Secretary, Member); Athletic Booster Board (President, Treasurer); Auction Fundraising Gala. Our Lady of the Wayside Parish: (past) Christian Family Movement; Principal Selection Committee; Parish 5K Fundraiser Run Chair; Parish Picnic Chair; Parish Life Commission Member; CRHP Woman's Retreat Lay Director; Summer Bible School teacher. Our Lady of the Wayside Parish (current) Communications Committee Member; Greeter/Usher for Masses during COVID. Hersey High School Football team parent liaison; PADS Arlington Heights Volunteer; Northwestern University 30th Reunion Planning Committee; Cook County election judge.
Q. Why are you running for the library board? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. I love Arlington Heights! I've lived here 27 years. The library is one of my favorite places and a pillar of our community. It's one of few spots that offers something for each stage of your life. When my four sons were little, we loved storytime and the substantial book and game collection. It saved us a lot of money when they got obsessed with one character! As they got older, they studied with friends in the Hub. We took advantage of college search materials and test study guides. I routinely use the "book bag" collections for my book club. I got hooked on the One Book, One Village programming right away. My husband takes advantage of career resources. He uses the meeting rooms regularly. As Arlington Heights continues to evolve, I want to ensure the AHML stays relevant to everyone in town. New moms and dads, new residents, newly retired, new immigrants, new grandparents, new entrepreneurs, newly unemployed, new crafters, new readers ... our should library offer programming for all. Village residents support the library with substantial property taxes, I want to make certain the library continues to offer great value and that residents are aware of its innovative services.
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. Absolutely! When the library had to close, it quickly improved the efficiency of picking up items ordered online at the drive-through and front door entrance. Returned items were sanitized as appropriate. More content was made available digitally for easy download. The business hub -- printer, copier, scanner and fax machines -- were made available in the vestibule in the underground garage. That was creative thinking! Some story times were outside. The library continued to host events online through zoom. It sponsored yoga at the Arlington Heights Historical Society. The library newsletter offered many websites and resources for parents to help their children with online learning. There was even a session on how to host an effective zoom meeting. The bookmobile was as busy as ever, adding "pop up" stops to the 27 regularly-scheduled stops. My personal favorite, was the DIY craft kits for kids, teens and even adults. They were attached by clothespins to a rope outside the library front door. What a fun way to be inspired during the pandemic summer! I loved seeing all the clever options on my daily walks.
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! With the availability of hoopla, press reader, RB digital, Flipster and kanopy, AHML made reading books, newspapers and magazines and watching videos easier than ever. It really isn't necessary to buy books on iTunes, kindle or Amazon! From what I could gather on the website, e-audio checkouts nearly doubled from March through December and e-books downloads increased more than 25 percent. I've seen a lot of publicity about the library's online offerings in the monthly newsletter, on the website and on Facebook.
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 would be a new board trustee and am hoping to help tell the story of our award-winning library! I am not a librarian, nor an accountant or attorney. I'm a longtime community member, with a background in public relations. I will help make sure Arling-ton Heights residents of all ages, in all areas of town, know about the varied library programming and services. I will be accessible -- listen to residents to ensure the library is serving their needs. I've served, in various roles, on several boards in my parish and school. I understand the responsibilities of board members. I expect to collaborate with other trustees, library staff and the larger Arlington Heights community. I welcome the opportunity to share and promote the innovative and creative opportunities available at the new makerspace. The library has excellent collaborative programming with the senior center and schools. I would like to explore expanding community partnerships. How can we combine programming and share event-funding with the Park District and Village special events team? Are there additional opportunities at Harper College, Wheeling and Elk Grove townships, police/fire departments and with Arlington Heights businesses?
Q. Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
A. Yes! I've had it since 1995. Honestly, I can't even remember getting it 26 years ago. If feels like I've always had it. I vividly remember when each of my sons got their library cards, when they were five. It was a big deal when they started to check out their own books. They even figured out how to request purchases of specific video games, which, at that time, I didn't even know libraries carried. I can't imagine how much money that saved us! I use my library card a lot ... definitely a few times a month, more in the summer or when I'm going on a trip. Lately, I've been using it more for online books and zoom programming.
Q. What other issues need to be addressed?
A. Since the library is primarily supported by property taxes, it's always incumbent on board members to act as good stewards of that funding. It's important to make sure library programming adds value to the lives of Arlington Heights residents. We need to make sure our money is being used wisely! At one point, the library had an app. Since the website has been revamped to be more user-friendly and easily navigated by cellphone, I'd like to revisit the development of an app. Since the Village of Arlington Heights has a specific focus on diversity and inclusion, we need to ensure the library cultivates and expands an inclusive atmosphere and presents an open exchange of ideas. In my opinion, the library has fantastic customer service and an excellent staff. As a board trustee, I would strive to maintain that level of competency and support staff retention in any way possible. I would assist library staff in whatever capacity they request to ensure the library continues to excel as an integral and exceptional benefit to residents of Arlington Heights.