Jackie McGrath: 2023 candidate for Barrington Area Public Library Board, 2-year term


Town: Barrington

Age on Election Day: 75

Occupation: Retired teacher

Employer: N/A

Previous offices held: Bloomingdale Library Board Trustee


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 am running because I'm concerned about our library's future. There is a nationwide movement to slash library budgets and remove books. Organizations like Awake Illinois and Moms for Liberty are behind a lot of the challenges libraries are facing and they are encouraging people to run for local offices. There is also a push to privatize public libraries. Library Systems & Services is the fourth largest library system in the United States and it is privately run. Who sits on a library board can mean the difference between a thriving library and one that is being dismantled. I want to secure my library's future.

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 Barrington Area Library did see a significant increase in the use of online materials and resources during the pandemic that has continued. The library's budget for online purchases has also increased. There is an incredible amount of information and material that can be accessed through the library's website, not just e-books, but tutoring services, learning a new language, writing resumes and much much more. The library has offered programs on online usage, such as how to using Hoopla, Kanapy, and Overdrive. Of course, there is always room for improvement. I'd suggest adding an article in the bimonthly Barrington Area Library Program Guide about what is available online and how to access it. Partnering to present programs about this with community organizations like the Barrington Council On Aging would also promote its use.

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: I truly believe that in this electronic world public libraries and their services are more important than ever.

With the explosion of information literally at people's fingertips, it is vital that a community has a place to go for reliable, valid, and balanced information. Public libraries provide patrons with access to resources such as electronic databases, e-books, enewspapers, and many other valuable paid subscriptions, without any further cost to the patron. By doing so the libraries are continuing the traditional mission of serving people from all walks of life. Furthermore, I believe that our library is well prepared for meeting this role. New steps that the library should consider making would be to survey the residents in the district to get their input on the future of the library's role in the electronic age.

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'm not an incumbent, but if I'm elected my main contribution to the library would be to help carry out the library's mission statement: The Barrington Public Library District strives to stimulate imagination, develop information fluency, foster lifelong learning, create young readers, all in a comfortable physical and virtual setting.

The Barrington Area Library truly is a wonderful place for everyone, and I'll work to do everything possible to secure its future.

Q: Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?

A: I got my first library card when I started going to school. Since then I've always had a library card, no matter where I've lived. I even had to take my property tax bill into a neighboring town's library to get a card because I lived in an area that wasn't part of any library district. Today I use my card at least 2-3 times a week, but not to just check out books. I use it to register for outstanding programs that the library provides on a wide range of topics both virtually and in person. I use the Interlibrary Loan to borrow items the Barrington Area Library doesn't have in its collections. I participate in two of the library's book discussion groups and rarely miss the Second Friday concerts. I even spend time in the children's library with my grandchildren; it is a wonderful place for young minds to explore and have fun.

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: I've served on six nonprofit boards and led three of them. Consensus building, also known as collaborative problem solving, is the technique I used to reach agreement. It is effective in producing actions and decisions that everyone has a voice in determining. When everyone's voice is heard and acknowledged it not only works to lessen conflict but increases the likelihood of support for the decision. While everyone may not get what they want at first, the consensus is formed when everyone accepts what is proposed. I have also used Win-Win to reach contract settlements that not only center around salary and benefits, but also relate to policies. Both these techniques increase support and acceptance of the outcomes furthering the ability to work together. This is key in producing effective actions and decisions that align with the library's policies.

Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?

A: Two important reasons make me the best candidate, my experience and my teaching career. First, I think experience matters and I have a lot of that. I have served as an elected library board trustee for the Bloomingdale Public Library, as well as being on five other nonprofit boards. I also spent most of my teaching career as a reading specialist working to not only teach children how to read but to love reading. Libraries are essential in maintaining this love of reading and serve to foster lifelong learning. Personally, I love the library!

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