Emily Gilbert: 2021 candidate for Schaumburg Township Library Trustee
Seven candidates for four 4-year terms
Hometown: Hoffman Estates
Age on Election Day: 36
Occupation: Academic librarian
Employer: Rasmussen University
Civic involvement: I ran for library trustee at the Schaumburg Township District Library in 2019 and have attended board meetings regularly since November 2017. I am active in the Illinois library community and currently serve as Vice President/President-Elect of the Illinois Association of College and Research Libraries
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 have wanted to be more involved in my community, and serving on the library board fits perfectly with my interests and talents. As an academic librarian, I am passionate about how libraries enrich their patrons. I can bring a lot to the board with my decade-plus of experience in librarianship and deep knowledge of library issues and operations. I have attended board meetings regularly for over three years, I am particularly motivated by the library district's need to provide equitable access to library resources and services to all residents. Finding, retrieving, and using information is the backbone of a free, educated society, but not everyone has the equipment or skills needed to engage with information, especially in the digital age. Because this issue disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities, older adults, people with disabilities, and people experiencing poverty, public libraries have a responsibility to proactively reach out to populations that may need extra assistance locating and using materials.
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. Though the library has had to close to the public twice since the start of the pandemic, the staff has made every effort to continue services safely whenever possible. After a period of complete closure, the library began allowing returns and processing holds. Returns were quarantined in storage pods for a period of time to eliminate any transmission of the virus, and curbside pickup was enacted at all three branches. The library has shown a great deal of compassion as the community has faced extra difficulties during the pandemic. Last spring, the library went fine-free and extended temporary digital access to households outside the regular service area but inside school districts 54 and 211, ensuring that local students had digital access while their school libraries were closed. In May, the board enacted a $1.5 million tax abatement to provide some economic relief to taxpayers. Most recently, the library announced new laptop kits, each including a laptop loaded with various programs, a mouse, and a Wi-Fi hot spot. The pandemic has exacerbated inequities that were already present, deepening the digital divide and worsening economic disadvantages, and the library has shown up for the community in an incredibly difficult time.
Q. Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?
A. While the library maintains a robust collection of print books and serials -- as well as DVDs, audiobook CDs, and playaways -- online materials are used more now than ever, and the library has adjusted their holdings accordingly over the years. Ten years ago, e-books were under two percent of the book collection as a whole; in 2020, they were almost a quarter of all books in the library collection. Digital audiobooks and music have taken off, too; there are now more digital audio recordings in the library than there are physical recordings, which makes sense given that mobile devices are the primary listening device for many people. Streaming video has really taken off in the last several years with new database additions like Hoopla -- from 2018 to 2020 alone, the library more than doubled its holdings of downloadable or streaming videos, while still maintaining its robust DVD collection. Electronic materials will never fully replace physical materials, but they are an excellent enhancement to the collection as more people rely on computers and mobile devices to consume information. The library does a great job marketing its online collection through its emails to patrons, social media accounts, and resource spotlights on the website.
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. If elected, I will be the only trustee who is also a librarian. In the years since getting my Master's in Library and Information Science, I have worked in college libraries and feel strongly about critical contemporary challenges facing the field, such as equitable access, intellectual freedom, and closing the digital divide. I plan to be an advocate for such values on the board. Also, while the library is well-loved by its patrons, there will always be citizens in our community who underuse the library or don't use it at all. Promoting awareness of the library is something I already do in my own communities, and I look forward to more impactful support if I am elected as a trustee.
Q. Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
A. I have had a library card since preschool, and part of the reason I became a librarian is because of the endless fond memories I had from my library growing up. I attended all kinds of story times and craft programs at my hometown library in Algonquin -- and checked out piles of books with every visit. I was also a regular attendee of the monthly poetry and open mic program as an adolescent, and the teen librarian who ran that program was subsequently my mentor throughout library school. Since then, every time I have moved I have gotten a library card right away in my new community. I got a card at the Schaumburg Township District Library shortly after moving to Hoffman Estates in 2008 and have had one ever since. When my husband and I sold our first house in Schaumburg in 2016, I refused to look at houses outside the library district because remaining a Schaumburg patron was important to me. An avid reader, I use the library all the time to check out books -- both in print and electronically. Pre-pandemic, my daughter loved playing in the Enchanted Forest, and she recently completed the 1,001 Books Before Kindergarten program.
Q, What other issues need to be addressed?
A. Schaumburg Township is incredibly diverse: almost 40 percent of the population speaks a language other than English at home, and 26 percent are foreign-born -- nearly double the rate of Illinois residents as a whole. I feel it is very important for the library to welcome and support these patrons through foreign-language materials and through literacy and citizenship programs, and I want to ensure that these initiatives remain a priority in the years to come. Furthermore, it is important to me that the library's collections are depictive of all of its patrons. Every visitor should be able to see themselves represented in literature, media, and other materials -- and they should be able to learn about others in substantive, meaningful ways, too. For example, children should be able to check out books with protagonists who are diverse in race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, and physical ability, and adults should have ready access to media from non-Western creators. I am strongly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion; as a trustee, I will work to ensure that representation remains a priority in the library and that patrons are encouraged to explore literature and media outside their comfort zones.