RIVER FOREST Library Board (2 open seats)

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


Karen Stierwalt

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?

As a lover of good books and cozy gathering spaces, I find the River Forest Library to be my favorite place in our town. My sons (ages 9 and 7) joke that no trip to the library is quick because we always chat with the friendly staff and neighbors.

I welcome the chance to have a more strategic role with the library where I could bring together my passion for our community and my belief in the importance of books. Also, as a Realtor and landlord for 16 years and counting, I’m hoping to join the library’s building sub-committee to help ensure proper maintenance and upkeep of the building.

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?

As a library board member, I would strive to foster a welcoming space accessible and enriching to everyone. To ensure the library is fulfilling residents’ needs, I’m anxious to hear community feedback over coffee, on phone calls, or through email. I want to engage with as many residents as possible.

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)?

I pride myself on engaging with a set of friends who are always challenging my point-of-view and sharing their diverse perspectives.  Additionally, whether coaching my sons’ baseball teams, volunteering at House of Good Shepherd domestic violence shelter, or working with vendor's for my church’s street fair, I always enjoy hearing all opinions and learning from others’ experiences.

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

My Library Board goals include:

  • Increase resident engagement with the library

  • Promote additional dialogue with residents about the resources the library has to offer

  • Evaluating how the physical library space can better support the activities that residents most use and enjoy

Accomplishing these goals would necessitate ongoing monitoring of library programming attendance; evaluating opportunities for new programming; and continually using electronic communication and social media to highlight resources and upcoming programming available at the library.

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

As a Trustee, my role is to:

  • Make decisions that serve the needs of the whole community

  • Respect and listen to all opinions

  • Be strategic in how library funds are best allocated

I will conscientiously work to make sure all voices are heard and considered when making decisions.

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

The library is a hub of community engagement. The varied programs and friendly and knowledgeable staff bring life to what would otherwise be a building of books.

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

  1. Dedicated areas for group projects that allow for talking

  2. Opportunities for small groups (book clubs, maker clubs, and other shared interest clubs)

  3. Continued programming that appeals to middle schoolers and bridges library resources with community involvement.

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

As a frequent library visitor, a member of three book clubs, and subscriber to multiple newspapers, I’m always trying to learn about the world around me. I love getting book recommendations from friends, and also enjoy hearing how others are using the library and what library resources are of the most interest to them.

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?

Honest and consistent dialogue between the Library Board and residents is key to staying in touch with community needs.

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

No contributors

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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.]