Carole Medal: 2021 candidate for Arlington Heights Library Trustee
Three candidates for two 6-year terms
Hometown: Arlington Heights
Occupation: Chief Executive Officer
Employer: Gail Borden Public Library District in Elgin
Civic involvement: Current Arlington Heights Memorial Library trustee, Vice President/Secretary; current board member of nonprofit credit union; current member of Reaching Across Illinois Library System Universal Service Committee; current board member of my church
Q. Why are you running for the library board? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. Having made my career in public libraries, I understand fully the value that libraries bring to their communities. It is the most democratic institution there is. Everyone has access to this "house of knowledge." It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, what race or gender you are, what political party you belong to, where you live, or even if you don't have a home -- all are welcomed and embraced at their public library. The Arlington Heights Memorial Library (AHML) is one of the top public libraries in the state. It leads on so many fronts: highly knowledgeable staff, innovative programs, creative services. I take pride in having served on this library board for almost 6 years and being part of a highly progressive institution, ready to serve the needs of the Arlington Heights community.
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. Although the AHML building has been closed to the public for approximately 6 months during the pandemic, the library never really closed. We very quickly pivoted to offering services virtually. Of course we were already a 24/7 library with all of our electronic collections, but our robust schedule of in-person programs came to a screeching halt and we quickly developed a schedule of engaging virtual programs. We have presented to thousands of people during this year and are now reaching a far wider audience. We also learned that people still want physical materials and developed an effective way to service 25 cars at a time with curbside delivery, which was far more efficient than just using the drive-up window. We made Wi-Fi available in our garage so all could have access to the internet. We even made laptops available through our Tech Stop along with a copier, PC station, printer, fax, scanning, and paper shredder all located in the area off the parking garage while the rest of the building was closed. Our bookmobile continued all of its routes serving people through the windows. Actually there were very few things people did not have access to!
Q. Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?
A. Because of the pandemic we saw a dramatic 65% increase in the checkout of online materials. We also lifted the limits of many of our electronic resources including streaming so our patrons had access to even more titles.
People could even apply for an online library card and immediately start checking out e-resources.
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. The most important contribution I made as a member of the board was in the selection of an excellent Executive Director. We were at a point where AHML needed strong leadership along with a creative spirit and an innovative mind and we achieved that. We developed a Strategic Plan which gave us a course of action through 2022. And most recently the acquisition of the Belmont building thanks to the Village is the most exciting of all! We will be the only library in the state to have an entire building devoted to a Makerspace -- a place where patrons will be able to make things; a hands-on learning environment with all the tools for creativity. It will provide the opportunity for people to become creators of content rather than just users. In addition it will give people the wonderful ability to become entrepreneurs. These are the all important qualities of a 21st century library.
Q. Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
A. Yes! For a long time! I do use it but more often than not I usually get my books at the Gail Borden Library where I work.
Q. What other issues need to be addressed?
A. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is demanding attention now in our community but AHML has been actively engaged in this since 2017 and I feel is now a leader in this effort. Our Vision and Values reflect diversity and inclusion as part of our institutional values. Staff training has taken place, exhibits on this theme have been hosted, public programs have attracted strong attendance, relocating the ESL/Literacy Office to a more prominent place in the library on the first floor, and the establishment of an Inclusion Awareness Month, are many of the activities that have taken place and continue to develop at AHML.