Allison Lanthrum: 2023 candidate for St. Charles Public Library Board
Town: St. Charles
Age on Election Day: 40
Employer: Aurora Public Library District
Previous offices held: n/a
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?
A: This is a pivotal time for the St. Charles Public Library District and our community. The Library's major renovation was completed in 2021, the same year the Library closed due to a COVID-19-related protest and library employees unionized. Then, a new Library Director joined the team in November of 2022. There has also been a recent and dramatic increase of proposed book bans across the nation. How the Library moves forward in this new chapter is up to voters. I am seeking this office in order to help ensure the freedom to read for all and to apply my skills, strengths, education, and experience into library policies that are fiscally responsible, supportive of staff, environmentally sustainable, and reflective of the needs, wants, and experiences of our community.
Q: Has your library seen a significant shift in the use of online materials? Has it adequately bolstered and promoted its online collection?
A: While our community continues to enthusiastically use the Library's physical materials, there is a significant increase in the use of online materials. Our community's purchase requests for digital materials continues to outpace requests for physical materials. During the 2021-2022 fiscal year, there were 648 requests to purchase physical items and 4,460 requests for digital items. Our community's format preferences are also shifting. For example, there is an increasing preference for streaming digital content over the use of DVDs. It's also notable that the Articles and Databases and eBooks websites are among the Library's most frequently visited webpages.
The Library has been agile and responsive to the community's shifting interests, investing in and creatively promoting its online materials and resources. These investments were amplified by the 2022 website relaunch and the expansion of wifi access across the Library and outside.
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: In the electronic age, I believe that the future of libraries lies in the hearts of their communities. A library may be a community center, children's museum, art gallery, job training facility, entertainment venue, historical society, workshop, computing center, and more- all at once. The St. Charles Public Library is well prepared to connect people with ideas, tools, resources, and each other as an agile and supportive constant in an evolving world. Moving forward, the Library could help support the community's successful navigation of the electronic age by increasing media literacy education and continuing to find new and creative methods of engagement.
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 Trustee, I would help the Library work towards fiscally responsible and environmentally sustainable policies that are supportive of staff and reflective of our community's needs, wants, and experiences. To do this, I would contribute my experience working within libraries, government, education, and non-profit organizations, my skills in conflict resolution, organization, and project coordination, my graduate education in Library and Information Science, and my strengths in leadership, agility, and resourcefulness.
Q: Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
A: I'm happy to have and use two library cards! As a resident, I have a St. Charles Public Library District card, and as a staff member, I have an Aurora Public Library District card. I signed up for a local library card as soon as I moved to St. Charles, and I use my library cards several times each week to do things like learn new skills on Linkedin Learning, make original gifts on the 3-D printer, print flyers, digitize family photos, listen to audiobooks, and check out books, wifi hotspots for road trips, and much more. I believe that a library card is a golden ticket!
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: Throughout my career, which includes libraries, government, and non-profits, I have often helped craft thoughtful policies. As part of a policy-making team, I am an empathetic listener that values the experience and insight of others and a strategic thinker that identifies creative ways forward and identifies key connections. I can ask uncomfortable questions, explore difficult issues in constructive ways, and value compromise. These qualities are especially important when considering the Library's new leadership (2022), new union (2021), and their ongoing initial contract negotiation. I will use my skills, strengths, and experience to contribute to the board's work in this new chapter, focused on the Library's mission, vision, and values and the needs, wants, and experiences of our community.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I am the best candidate for this position, because I am a frequent library user and enthusiastic supporter of the St. Charles Public Library, I have immediately relevant work experience in public libraries, government, and non-profits, and I have been endorsed by the Library workers' union, AFSCME. I have earned a Master's degree in Library & Information Science from the University of Illinois, and my personal strengths include strategic thinking and conflict resolution. All of these qualifications, combined with my dedication to community building, would be great assets to our library and community.