Amy (Anne) Somary: 2023 candidate for Arlington Heights Memorial Library Board
Town: Arlington Heights
Age on Election Day: 56
Occupation: Substitute teacher
Employer: St. Raymond School, Mount Prospect
Previous offices held: Arlington Heights Memorial Library Trustee (2-year term for board member's early retirement)
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?
A: I believe the Arlington Heights Memorial Library is a pillar of our community. The library offers something for literally everyone in our village. From engaging toddler story times, to high school study sessions; from thought-provoking author visits, to practical computer classes; our library provides cost-saving services for all ages, income-levels and interests. Want to research your ancestors? The library has an extensive genealogy collection. Prefer to read on your iPad? Download books. Trying to save money on subscriptions? Access your favorite magazines and newspapers simply by using your library card. With the new Makerplace branch, residents can sew, quilt, cook, 3-D print or use other tools to turn creative ideas into reality. My goal is for every Arlington Heights resident to have a library card and use it to save money, engage in the community and become a lifelong learner.
Q: Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?
A: The AHML saw a significant increase in the use of online materials during COVID. That stark increase has settled down. Last year, our online rentals were just a bit higher than before COVID. The library staff does an excellent job of offering items in a variety of options. Popular titles are available in large print, audiobook, eBook, audio CD, and typical books. Many are also offered through one of our 10 partner libraries. Residents use the library for more than just reading or research materials. Last year, 51,353 patrons attended programming at the library -- an increase of more than 16 percent over the previous year. The library also offers programming online for customers to enjoy at their own time and pace. It also has robust ESL, literacy and genealogy specialties as well as assistance for local businesses, career services and accessibility options. The website and information services staff are critical community resources. Customers can even text questions to library staff.
Q: What do you see as the future of role of libraries in the electronic age? How well prepared is your library for meeting that role? What new steps must the library begin taking?
A: Libraries are about so much more than books! Patrons use meeting rooms, attend programming, take classes and collaborate with others in our spaces. AHML saw nearly 600,000 visits last year. That includes the main library, drive-up window, bookmobile, Makerplace and Senior Center. The library had more than 1.5 million "checkouts" of materials -- physical books, movies, music, toys, games, puzzles, computers and tools, downloaded books, magazines and newspapers. More than 51,000 residents attended library programming -- everything from cooking and painting classes to stories in the park to our renowned "One Book, One Village" discussions around town. AHML recently conducted a community survey to inform an upcoming strategic plan. Like everything, libraries must continue to evolve as the needs of its residents change. AHML is developing a comprehensive framework to ensure it meets the needs of its community into the future as technology impacts the way we all work, live and learn.
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 was elected as a trustee on the AHML board two years ago to complete the term for an early retirement. We haven't requested a tax increase during my time on the board. I take my fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers of Arlington Heights very seriously. We opened the Makerplace during my tenure and continue to promote its equipment and programming to the community. Through collaboration, innovation, and the hard work of our exceptional staff, the AHML was named a five-star library in 2022 by the Library Journal -- 2nd best library in the country for our budget. That's no small feat, coming out of a pandemic! Last Spring, the AHML board developed a clear flag policy. I advocated for the POW flag to be flown year-round. I also supported the Gay Pride flag being flown during the month of June, as it meets our established criteria. I suggested we have an American flag in our board room and proposed we begin each meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. That is now our standard practice.
Q: Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
A: Of course! I've had a library card since I was about 5 in my Michigan hometown. I've had an Arlington Heights Memorial library card since 1995, about a year and a half after I moved here. I'm not sure what took me so long!
Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions of your library board.
A: In addition to serving as AHML trustee the past two years, I've been on several other boards. My four sons attended Our Lady of the Wayside from preschool through 8th grade and were all graduated from Hersey. At Wayside, I served on the School Board, Athletic Booster Board, Family School Association, Parish Life Commission and Christian Family Movement Board. I oversaw the school's primary fundraising auction and the parish picnic. I was "football mom" for many years at Hersey. Through all these experiences, I worked collaboratively with many people and many personalities on quite a few emotional issues. I believe listening with an open mind is the key to effective communication. It's important for everyone to feel heard. Our current board is a good example of collaboration and respect. We may not all agree all the time. Yet, we've been able to discuss difficult topics and show consideration for each other and the larger community as we make decisions.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: My husband and I have lived in Arlington Heights nearly 30 years. I graduated with a journalism degree from Northwestern University, then spent a decade working for one of the largest public relations firms in the world. I helped food and travel clients build their brands, host creative special events, and get good press. More recently, I've worked in schools -- as a preschool aide and substitute teacher. I've also raised four boys (age 20-28) and done a lot of volunteer work. Throughout it all, I've relied on the library for research, entertainment and intellectual stimulation. Like most residents, my relationship with the library has changed as my life has changed. I would be honored to continue to serve the community I love -- the Arlington Heights Memorial Library -- our 5-star jewel in the center of Arlington Heights.