RESPONSES TO THE OPCTA QUESTIONNAIRE
What motivates you to seek this office? Have you participated in public service in the past? If so, how? If not, why now?
I grew up in Oak Park, graduated from OPRFHS in 2009, Bradley University in 2013 and have lived/owned a business in Oak Park for the past 4 years. The community has done so much for me and now I want to get involved in the decisions to help it be even better for the next generation. More specifically I decided to run for library board because I care a lot about our libraries and there are some things I would like to get done on the board.
1. Re-Implement a teen section at the main library
2. Create a Jr. Library board made up of high school and middle school students
3. Further connect the libraries business resources with the business community.
4. Bring a fresh and diverse perspective to the board.
What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to the board, and why would those contributions be valuable for the Library?
I believe I have many skills, experiences and perspectives to bring to the board. I am a 26 year old African American Male college graduate who owns a business in the community he grew up in. I am very fortunate and owe a lot to Oak Park for the experiences I have had. In addition, every day in my business I plan, budget and ensure we are sticking to our mission, vision and goals. As a Board member I will use this experience to make sure the organization is remaining financially responsible and committed to its core values. Also, I sit on the Executive Board of Directors for the OPRF Chamber of Commerce. In this
position I am chair of the governance committee and have experience writing by-laws and managing some HR functions of the chamber. I can use these experiences to inform my decisions on the board.
Would you describe yourself as an agent of social change? Why or why not?
Yes I would. Solving Issues of education inequality and income inequality are my passion and the library encounters these issues every day. I have been trying to fight for social change in a variety of ways since I was in high school whether that was helping rebuild the 75th street business district in Chicago or volunteering at homeless shelters in college. The library is the next step for me to create the social change I want to see in the world around me. Government cannot solve every aspect of every problem; however, it is one avenue to do so. It is important that some people still vote, others write their representatives, some protest, etc. I am running because I believe my role to create change is by getting involved locally.
Do you feel there are communities or groups the Library has failed to sufficiently engage? If so, what initiatives would you advocate to promote increased engagement?
I wouldn’t use the world failed. However, there are opportunities to extend the libraries resources to more people within the community. Specifically I would like to foster greater collaboration with the business community and struggling students. The library can work closely with the OPRFHS School of Business and share the tremendous amount of historical data, business books and more with young entrepreneurs. In addition, the library can be at the forefront of the “attack the gap” initiative to decrease the achievement gap in our schools. Working closely with the school boards we can identify struggling students and offer them the tutoring and mentoring the library already has to offer.
How will you work to foster collaboration between the Library and other governmental organizations?
Since the campaign began I have heard a lot about an organization called I-Gov that meets regularly to discuss the issues that are effecting all boards in Oak Park. I think this is a great program but I am old fashioned in the sense that I believe if you want to know what’s going on with something you have to go to the meetings yourself. I have been and will commit to being an active community member and attend other Boards meetings so the library can work intuitively with the other elected boards in Oak Park.
In June the Library will eliminate fines for Oak Park residents borrowing OPPL materials. Do you foresee any unintended consequences to this policy? How do you anticipate this policy change will affect patrons’ relationship with the Library? How do you anticipate this policy change will affect patrons’ relationship with the
As of now I don’t anticipate any unintended consequences. However, it’s very important that we continue to monitor this program as it is being implemented. As a board member I will suggest that after 6 months we do a stakeholder analysis to see how the policy is playing out in reality for our patrons.
This new policy will eliminate the fear of bringing back overdue books for people that don’t have the money to pay or are not interested in paying. Fines created a barrier and removing them will allow greater access to residents. The result will be improved community relations between the library and the community.
In the past six months, the Library has replaced outside security guards with social workers and employee security monitors. In your view, has this change had the desired result?
It’s still to early to tell how the changes are effecting the safety and comfort of the library. However, the results I have seen have been overwhelmingly positive. Children respond to relationships. The old system of outsourced security guards and out of touch disciplinarians was not working and the new team is focused on getting to know the library patrons at a more personal level. I am excited to give my input to create policies that make the library safer and more open to everyone.
With shifting values at the national level, do you anticipate any shift in the Library’s role and responsibilities in our community? How would you approach the elimination of the NEH and NEA?
I anticipate an increased need for libraries in communities around the country. Libraries are centers of knowledge and must separate fact from fiction for all citizens. In a way the knowledge libraries spread are the last line of defense against the attacks against our countries integrity and I plan on helping our library stay true to Oak Park's values.
I am approaching the proposed cuts in the only way I know how, by fighting back. I do not plan on letting this budget pass without some major changes. Veterans, children and education need to be our highest priority and libraries can be at the forefront of this fight.
Please describe how lifelong learning has been a value in your own life. How would bring this perspective to your work on the Library Board?
I try to learn at least one new thing every day. I do this because it reminds me that I don’t know everything and that there are some things I’ll never know. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that the best learning doesn’t come from books or newspapers but from face to face interaction with people. As a board member I will interact directly with library patrons and engage community members to find out how the library can better serve its stakeholders.
The Library is an essential meeting location for local businesses, governmental agencies, and non-profits. How do you believe this resource should be managed?
Our library is a resource for the community and open to all who wish to use it. Therefore I believe the libraries meeting rooms should be open to everyone regardless of beliefs, tax status or affiliation. I want the library to be someplace where people feel comfortable and comfortable being uncomfortable. When people meet at the library they need to feel safe and valued. However, sometimes it is important to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable. The library can’t just be a place where we learn about what’s important to us it has to be a place where we learn about different views, practices and can have honest debates about our issues. This will help us create a diverse and conscious community.
Over the years the Library has invested heavily in technology. Do you see unexplored opportunities for technology to enhance the Library’s work or extend its reach?
I think there are always opportunities to invest more in technology. One investment I’d love to see is a recording studio at the library. A recording studio would bring people into the library that don’t normally use it and can help with the libraries mission of equality by increasing access to those that cannot afford to go to a recording studio on their own. In addition, investing in a recording studio would renew the libraries commitment to the arts and allow Oak Park spoken word, singers and instrumentalists reach new audiences.
Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
$175 Sonja Luster
$150- Cathy Yen
$100 Jackie Fair
Candidate Profile (Wednesday Journal)
Harris will help library realize its potential(Wednesday Journal)
Oak Park Library Board race is packed (Wednesday Journal)