Nathan Gass: 2021 candidate for Lake Villa Public Library District trustee
Four candidates running for three, 4-year terms
Town: Lake Villa
Occupation: Librarian, Cook Memorial Public Library District
Civic involvement: Member of the RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Library System) EDI Committee.
Q. Why are you running for the library board, whether for re-election or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. I've lived in Lake Villa most of my life. Now that I'm raising a family in this community, I want to give back to the place that made me who I am. I love LVDL and believe one of the best ways I can serve is as a library trustee. I have dedicated my life to libraries, being a librarian myself for over 10 years. The public library is foundational to a healthy community -- a place people of all ages and backgrounds can enter freely to discover who they are and how they fit into the wider world. What motivates me most is ensuring our library is meeting the needs of the entire district with equal access to quality services, and that the library continues to provide diverse perspectives that help us all to grow.
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. Yes, I think LVDL has done a phenomenal job of arising to the unique challenges of this pandemic. The library offered curbside pickup while the building was closed and continues to offer home delivery to those who request it. This home delivery service is rare among libraries in the area and is a prime example of how LVDL raises the bar for library service.
Q. Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?
A. I don't know the exact numbers on usage of online materials, but I can say that LVDL has a very robust online collection. Being a bit of a self-declared film buff, I was ecstatic when LVDL added Kanopy to its digital services -- a treasure trove of classics, indie films, foreign language films, and documentaries. The library has also temporarily provided home access to Ancestry.com, something not available prior to COVID 19. LVDL has promoted these materials on their social media and even held events that tie into the services, such as having a documentary filmmaker talk about their film on Kanopy.
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. I think it is safe to say all libraries have learned so much about how to adapt quickly in response to a public health crisis. What we've learned so far will make that response even quicker should another health crisis arise. I think any safeguards or guidelines for future crises should consider the flexibility necessary for staff to continue to do their jobs and survive the disruption with their physical and mental health intact. We are lucky to live in this time of such advanced scientific knowledge, and so no matter the health crisis we should look to the scientific research and medical professionals to guide our decisions. These decisions will vary depending on the nature of the public health crisis, but as a community institution, the library should always place the safety of the community at the forefront of any decision-making and adapt in ways that ensure no segment of the district's population is disproportionately impacted.
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. As a non-incumbent, I first want to thank the work of LVDL and its board up until now. We have a beautiful new building in a location more central within the district, wonderful staff, top notch services and programs, and last year made the important decision to eliminate late fees on materials. If elected, I would be eager to dig into studies on library usage within the district, figuring out what is working and what isn't. I know LVDL is in the process of developing its strategic plan, so now is a perfect time to ask these questions. One contribution I would love to make is exploring new modes of outreach the library could be doing, such as thinking about how we can take the library out into the community so that its presence and positive influence are ubiquitous throughout.
Q. Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
A. Yes I have a library card. I've had an LVDL card off and on since moving here when I was 13. I think I've had my current card number since 2002 when I signed up during a summer home from college. I use it constantly, checking out books, movies, and video games for myself and my family.