Andrew Fekete: 2021 candidate for Algonquin Area Public Library trustee
Four candidates are running for two, 6-year terms on the Algonquin Area Public Library District board in the April 6, 2021, election. The candidates are: incumbent Lindsay Taylor; and newcomers Andrew Fekete, Ariel Flores, and Tracy Sharkey. Flores did not respond to the questionnaire.
The Daily Herald asked candidates to respond to a questionnaire about library issues. Some of their responses are below.
In-person early voting at locations throughout the county begins March 22. Learn more at www.kanecountyclerk.org/Elections.
Occupation: Instructional Technology Specialist, Indian Prairie School District 204
Civic involvement: My philosophy on civic involvement is that everyone needs to do their part to make our community better. I have the experience working with libraries, and I believe that this is a way I can make our community better.
Q: Why are you running for the library board, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: As an educator and instructional technologist for Indian Prairie School District 204, I have led the transformation of our school districts libraries to become "Future Ready" programs, a framework developed by the Alliance for Excellent Education. I am passionate about library services as I have seen the impact libraries have on our schools and students. I believe our library must continue to be relevant.
In order to remain relevant, it must continue to evolve to be more than a place where community members go to check out books to a place that provides materials, services, unique experiences and learning opportunities for all residents in the community. The library must continue to be the leader in providing access to high-quality digital, print and other resources. The library must be a place where anyone can go to receive support, and reliable and accurate information on a variety of topics. I have been recognized by Google for my work in instructional technology. My job includes the opportunity to evaluate new programs and digital resources. I believe that this experience as well as my familiarity with the "Future Ready" framework can further strengthen our library.
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: Given the circumstances, the library has done a good job to serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic. We are fortunate that the Algonquin library has invested in providing digital resources for adults and children, both in print and digital media. When the library was not open, our family appreciated being able to take advantage of these resources. Specifically, I was able to access the collection of eBooks and audiobooks and found some great titles.
Additionally, I really loved the ways that the library made their programming flexible for families. My children, 12 and 7, were able to request books and materials that were able to be picked up through the "drive-through" service. We were able to provide a list of topics that my daughter enjoys and a librarian selected titles for her.
Beyond books, the library provided other services to families during this time through take-home crafts, online programming, public resources and more. While the library did a good job, I think that there may be a way to improve our online experience to be more user friendly, particularly for children and adults who are not as skilled at using the internet.
Q: Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?
A: Even as a regular attendee of the library and library programming, I am always surprised by the variety and availability of online materials. From books, comics, audiobooks, music, films, classes and more, there is something for everyone through the library. The fact that all of these can be accessed from your cellphone shows how the library has evolved. As a library trustee, one of my focuses will be to continue to provide and promote these online materials. Our community has a broad range of skills and backgrounds, and not everyone has a high level of expertise in internet practices, we must support all patrons to better understand how to access and utilize these materials. We also need to increase public awareness of our library assets. Therefore, I will look to gather some data and work collaboratively to find ways to promote the library's digital offerings. One of my favorite things about the transformation of the Algonquin Area Library has been its adoption of digital resources. It shows that the library has focused on the changing landscape around them and providing resources digitally is another way to get high-quality resources into the hands of our community members.
Q: In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?
A: First and foremost, the library must follow all of the guidelines presented by federal, state and local health departments. The library also has a role as a trustworthy place where our community can access accurate information backed by science. Additionally, we must continue to bolster our collections by obtaining in a timely manner credible and reliable information for the public to access. Access to online resources support individuals concerned about gathering in public places during a public health crisis.
We must continue the work of establishing the library as a leader in the community, where it can serve as a space where experts in the field may address and answer questions from its residents. We should not stop working to keep our public spaces clean and disease free by encouraging proper hand-washing, sanitizing, maintaining social distancing guidelines and being acutely aware of who is visiting the library and if they are ill. We can learn a lot from our experiences with COVID-19 to make our community safer for all our residents. Finally, we should not wait for a future health crisis to keep everyone safer and healthier today.
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: My focus will center on 3 core principles. We must continue to strengthen the library's place within the community by opening access to high-quality digital, print and other resources to all segments of our community. This includes analyzing and promoting the resources the library currently has available to maximize their use. We should center the library as a place where residents are able to receive support, services and reliable and credible information in nontraditional ways. And we must work toward collaboratively redefining what a library is in the 21st century, using guidelines such as the "Future Ready" framework. This includes continuing to bolster our makerspace, our access to materials, and the availability of high quality programming for both children and adults. Through my experience working with school libraries and the use of data to identify areas of strength and room for growth. My goal is to open the doors to the library even wider than they have ever been before, so that our library feels like a home and resource for every member of our community.
Q: Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
A: When I moved to Algonquin in 1990, one of the first things my family did was take a trip to the library to sign up for a library card. I was only 9, but my parents wanted to instill in me the importance of a community library. Now that my family and I have made Algonquin our forever home, it is exciting that my children now have their own library cards and I am able to instill in them the same lessons. We live close to the library, so we regularly visit to checkout books and other materials and take advantage of their other services and events as much as possible. Recently, my son was thrilled to be allowed to display his FunkoPop collection at the library. My daughter loves to go to visit the fish and complete crafts. It is simple things like these that open the doors for kids to visit and become comfortable at the library. The library feels like home to us, and we are always excited to go and explore what is new and what they have available for our family and the community.