Kelly Ann Simms: 2021 candidate for Helen Plum Library board
Seven candidates are running for four, 4-year terms on the Helen M. Plum Memorial Public Library District board of trustees in the April 6 election.
They are incumbents Jason Brandt, John T. Larkin, Jr. and Susan Wiggins, and newcomers Kristin Anne Dittrich, Jennifer Erickson, Julie Kowalski-Schmidt, and Kelly Ann Simms.
The Daily Herald asked candidates to respond to a questionnaire about library issues.
Occupation: Retired School Nurse/Critical Care Nurse
Civic involvements: Apollo Chorus of Chicago board member for 6 years, early 2000s; Treasurer Cub Scout Pack 42, approximately 4 years, 1990s; treasurer, Illinois Association of School Nurses, DuPage Valley Division, approximately 4 years, 1990s; and trustee, Community Presbyterian Church, Lombard, 6 years, 2000s.
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: Since I retired from school nursing in 2014 I have been seeking a way to give back to our community. When the current pandemic hit, I turned to reading more than ever before. Since I have experience serving on nonprofit boards, I decided I would run for the Helen Plum Library Board in order to serve, if I am elected.
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: At first Helen Plum was closed completely. In a number of weeks they began a pickup service, as I am sure it took that long to organize and train for the proper sanitizing of materials and hygiene of employees. A few months passed and the building was open again with limited occupancy. As the pandemic statistics worsened in our area Helen Plum was again closed except for the pickup service. Now it has reopened as the COVID-19 positivity rate has declined. I felt they did a good job of maintaining safety and serving our town, and did not have any issue with their practices.
Q: Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?
A: To my knowledge there is wide use of the online materials. Six different platforms are available through Helen Plum to check out e-books. Audiobooks are available. There is access to tutoring and/or classes for English language learners and continuing education for adults. Newspapers, magazines, and TV/movies can be streamed. General reference, genealogy, job search, and health and wellness topics are a few of the online options.
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, what has been learned and put into practice by Helen Plum to keep patrons safe from COVID-19 must not be forgotten. Hopefully it will be a long time before another pandemic, but these protocols must be easily accessible for future reference. As a school nurse I was trained to be prepared for no less than two other such public dangers: An active shooter on the premises and a general catastrophic disaster in our area. If Helen Plum does not have plans for these types of occurrences both need to be addressed.
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 am a brand new candidate. I have many different experiences that have given me knowledge that will ensure I contribute thoughtfully to both debates and votes leading to the decision making required of a Helen Plum Library Board Trustee. Since graduating from the University of Illinois College of Nursing I have worked in several settings, all of which contributed to my maturity as a nurse and individual. I have worked as critical care nurse, floor nurse, and pre and post anesthesia care nurse during my hospital tenure. In the school setting I have worked as a one-on-one RN with several medically fragile students, managed the nurses' office of many schools, served on special education teams doing case studies, and organized mass screenings for dental care and vision/hearing screening of students. I have served on three different volunteer boards in the past, but have never run for public office. During my career I learned to get all the possible facts before making a decision, and to always be open to the opinions of others.
Q: Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it
A: Yes I have a Helen Plum Library card. I truly do not remember how long I have had it ... I think about 30 years. I have lived at my current address for almost 35 years, and it was not too very long after that when I began going to Helen Plum with my children. I borrow books at least monthly.