RIVER FOREST Library Board (2 open seats)

Ates Dagli | Erik S. Harris | James Hopkinson | Karen Stierwalt


Ates Dagli

candidate for 2019 River Forest LIBRARY Board

1. What motivates you to seek this office? What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to the Board of Trustees, and why would those contributions be valuable to the River Forest Public Library?

I would like to help the River Forest Public Library continue to be a welcoming, well-resourced, community-centered public institution. My affection and respect for libraries stems from the central role they have played in my own education, and I have been a constant public library user for decades. As a former software engineer, I understand the problems as well as the promises of digital technology. As someone with a graduate degree and academic work in economics, I understand that making careful trade-offs among competing needs is one of the library board’s most important tasks.

I was appointed by the River Forest Library Board in September 2018 as a trustee to finish out the term of a trustee who resigned. My brief tenure has given me the opportunity to watch and learn how the library runs.

Finally, being retired makes it easier for me to devote time to work on the Library Board.

2. What steps will you take to improve and expand community engagement with the Library and the Board? What is your view on how local elected officials should communicate with and respond to constituents?

It should be easy for any member of the River Forest community to contact the library director or Board members. We already have established channels for this. As a Board member, I would be available to talk to any resident about their concerns and bring them to the board president’s attention. Board meetings are announced and open to the public. That said, I should point out that the Director is the executive who runs the library; most concerns about library programs, collection, etc. should be communicated to the director first.

3. In what ways have you sought to better know and understand the concerns and needs of residents outside your demographic group (specifically the demographic groups of race, religion, ability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status)?

The only way I know how to understand the concerns and needs of residents outside my demographic group is by listening to them. The public library is an institution where all residents, regardless of their demographic group, must be welcome. As a board member, I also have an obligation not to let my own background cloud or bias my judgment.

4. What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the Library Board?

I will support the strategic goals of the Library, which may be summarized as: creating young readers, supporting lifelong self-directed learning, providing elementary school age children materials and programs that stimulate their imagination and foster a love of reading, providing middle school age children with a supportive environment, and providing a comfortable space where all are welcome.

I will work to ensure that resources are allocated to maintain the library building in a timely manner and to make the changes necessitated by changing use patterns. The Library building is old. The original building dates to 1929. It was raised four feet and connected to a new building in the 1990s. As a result, its structural and mechanical elements are complex and require attention. Failures in heating and plumbing systems in the recent extreme cold spell forced the library to close for about a week.

5. What do you see as the most important duties of a River Forest Library Trustee?

The duties of a River Forest Library Trustee are to (in no particular order):

  • adopt Annual Budget and approve monthly warrants;

  • participate in the annual Director evaluation;

  • support the three-to-five year Strategic Plan and its implementation;

  • adopt (and revise) policies to govern library pro grams and operations.

6. In what ways are libraries are about more than books?

First and foremost, libraries are public spaces visited by a wide cross-section of the village community. One only has to spend a short time at the River Forest Public Library to get a sense of this. There are few other institutions that foster such a feeling of belonging to a community.

Of course, libraries are about more than books in more mundane ways: They provide story times for young children and caregivers. They are where many people go for internet and/or computer access. They provide 24/7 online service for access to eBooks, magazines, language courses, select databases, etc. They support book clubs with materials and space. They offer introductory tech courses for seniors. ...

7. What three things can the River Forest Library do to increase usage by middle school age ( i.e. , age 10-14) residents?

The River Forest Public Library is in the fortunate position of being next door to the middle school. As a result, RFPL has higher attendance by this age group than the average public library. To find three things that RFPL can do to increase usage by middle school age residents, I would recommend consulting the library director. The director and the library staff who interact with the middle school students are professionals with the training and experience to be able to address this question.

8. How do you keep abreast of changes in library trends?

I try to keep abreast by using the library regularly, trying out new library services, reading, and talking to a small circle of librarian friends. My wife is a retired library educator and librarian with more than 40 years of experience.

9. With libraries adapting to the changing needs of their communities, what have you done (and/or what will you do) to ensure that the River Forest library is providing value to the River Forest community?

I would try to see if the community is changing and how. For me, the most reliable way to accomplish this is by reaching out to community members, especially those who do not think they are receiving value from the library.

10. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.

There are no contributors to my campaign now, and there will be none.

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[The above answers were supplied on 2/13/19. It may be possible to find more current financial information at the Illinois Sunshine website. Illinois Sunshine is also a useful resource for identifying past contributions by individuals to political candidates and committees in Illinois.]