Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Irony: Scheduling Special Board Meetings

In a telling example of the Library's need for additional space, especially meeting room space, the Board of Library Trustees found it very difficult to identify a date and time for Special Board meetings to interview architects at the Library. Demonstrating exactly how frustrating it is for community members interested in using the Library's meeting rooms, in the two week time span for the weekday evening meetings, neither the Small Meeting Room nor Large Meeting Room were available for the time period needed. The interviews will instead take place in the very cramped confines of the Storytime Room, where three of the four walls are lined with cabinets, cupboards, boxes and carts. If the Library Board cannot get into the rooms that are supposed to serve as community meeting space, what chance do other community groups have in booking the room? One central role of a 21st century library is to provide a community gathering and collaboration space. At 1/3 the size Illinois Library Standards set for a population of 75,337 residents, it is a role the 1980's facility cannot fulfill.

*Yes, there are some other venues in the downtown that the Trustees could have used through intergovernmental cooperation. However, as part of the process is to introduce the firms to be interviewed to the Library and its facility, an off-site location was not a good fit for these meetings.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Plainfield Library’s History of Ballot Measures

The Plainfield Public Library District has had only seven ballot questions in its 90 year history: three to establish the library district and its predecessors, three for building bonds (two of which failed), and one for an operating tax rate increase (which failed). Construction of library buildings were funded primarily through three bequests. The last bequest was received in 1954. No operating tax rate increase has ever been approved for the Plainfield Public Library District. Per capita funding for the library has been level since 1993 – with no adjustment for inflation.
  • 1925 – Ebanezer and Celeste Nimmons leave $25,000 to the Village of Plainfield to establish a tax-supported library. Residents voted to approve the tax-supported library later that year.
  • 1926 – The Plainfield Library opens to the public in a small frame building on Lockport Street.
  • 1941 – Using the remainder of the Nimmons estate and an additional bequest from George and Marietta McClester, the 2,700 square foot brick Library building is constructed on Illinois Street.
  • 1954 – Fannie Stratton leaves a 160-acre farm in a charitable remainder trust to the Plainfield Library. The farm is operated by the Library for additional operating revenue.
  • 1977 – Plainfield Township establishes a tax-supported library for residents outside of the Village of Plainfield.
  • 1981 – Plainfield Township Library opens its 900 square foot facility inside Grande Prairie School.
  • 1988 – Voters approve the Village of Plainfield Library and Plainfield Township Library merger to form the Plainfield Public Library District. The tax rate for the district is the minimum required to establish a library district. The Stratton farm is sold as plans begin to expand the library building.
  • 1989 – Voters reject a plan to expand the library to 27,000 square feet and renovate the original portion.
  • 1990 – Voters approve a plan to expand the library to 27,000 square feet and renovate the original portion, with only 13,500 square feet to be finished initially.
  • 1991 – The Plainfield Public Library District opens its new facility on Illinois Street, with a lower level that is mostly unfinished.
  • 1993 – Voters reject an operating tax rate increase for the Library.
  • 1994 – The Library cuts service hours, eliminates staff positions, and freezes the book budget. Over the next several years, the burgeoning residential building boom in the community allowed the restoration of these services.
  • 1997 – The lower level of the Library building is finished using the remaining proceeds of the Stratton farm.
  • 2009 – Voters reject a plan to expand the main Library to 70,000 square feet and build a 30,000 square foot branch in the northwest section of its service area.

There have been no ballot measures for the Plainfield Public Library District since 2009.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Library’s History of Space Planning in Brief

As the Plainfield Public Library District enters into a new space planning process, the question "how did we get to this point?" keeps coming up. I’ll give you the short version:

Following the explosive growth in the area through the early 2000s, the Plainfield Library went through a full planning process for the building and library service. A ballot question for expansion to over 100,000 square feet of library in two locations (a main library downtown and branch in the northwest section of the service area) went to vote in April 2009 and failed. Due to the economic downturn, the Library Board of Trustees deferred placing it on the ballot again despite the service limitations of the current facility. In 2011, the Trustees asked voters through a series of focus groups and open forums if they were ready for the Library’s question on the ballot again. The response was “yes, it’s needed, but we’re not ready to see it on the ballot yet.” At that time, the current facility surpassed the 20 year expected lifespan of most of its systems. Repair and replacement costs to keep the building operational began to skyrocket. The Trustees hired KJWW Engineering to perform a full building evaluation. The report identified over $2.6 million in repair and replacement needs to keep the building operational for the next 20 years, with recommendations for immediate, short and long term repairs and replacements. Addressing the most immediate needs, specifically the replacement of the roof and HVAC system in 2012, depleted the Library’s Special Reserve Fund. In 2013, a Long Range Budget Plan was approved by the Board of Trustees maintain the operability of the facility until a new plan for a ballot initiative could be developed. Targeting 2016 for a new ballot question, the Library Board of Trustees began the planning process in late 2014. Today, the Board of Trustees is focused on assembling a team of professionals to help them gather information and aid in the creation of a plan. Over the next year, input and feedback on the community’s library needs will be critical to develop a plan that meets those needs for the future in a way that the community supports.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

21st Century Library Services, 1980’s Building

Don’t get me wrong, the Plainfield Public Library provides some amazing 21st century library services: loaning Roku boxes for streaming video; downloadable ebooks, eaudiobooks, magazines and music; technology help; computer classes; job seeker support; subscription databases; the laundry list goes on and on. But the thing that holds the library back from truly fulfilling the community’s needs is this building. Yes, the Board and staff have done a great job keeping it looking good. But every single day – and the Library is open 7 days a week – a resident with a need is turned away without getting what they need because their need requires something this building just doesn’t have - space.

From kids working on group projects, to tutors seeking somewhere to meet with their students, to community organizations seeking a room to hold a meeting, to businesses seeking a larger room for Skype or Go To Meeting, community, study and meeting space of all kinds is a daily request that cannot be fulfilled by this facility. Computer classes are limited in size and cramped into a room not designed for technology. The small size of the meeting rooms limit all programs, like author events, our annual teen murder mystery play and everyday children’s programs.

This building was designed in 1988-1989, before the Internet, email or cell phones were widely used. Before texting existed. When faxing was high-tech. When Miami Vice colors were in (thank goodness those are nearly gone from the building). When paper tax forms were still widely available. When many of today’s library users were very small children or weren’t born yet.

Libraries are now community gathering spaces, where creation of content and collaboration occur, where people connect with each other. Technology has fundamentally changed how libraries deliver service – and the way people use public libraries has changed along with it. Computer classes and technology help are a huge part of library service today. And they take up space that just wasn’t in the plan in the 1980’s.

We’re halfway there. We’ve begun 21st century services. With a little elbow room, the Plainfield Library could be the community’s 21st century gem.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Vacancy, Candidates and the April 2015 Election

With the resignation of Gretchen Fritz to assume her seat on Will County Board, the Plainfield Public Library District Board of Trustees has been operating with a vacancy since late last year. The timing of the vacancy would allow for the seated board of Trustees to appoint someone to that position only until the next regular election. Because the filing period for candidates for the April 2015 election to the Library Board was December 15 through 22, the Board of Trustees decided not to pursue appointing someone to the vacancy for only a few months. Instead, they waited to find out who would file their paperwork to run for the two-year unexpired term. Their patience was rewarded when only a single candidate filed for the two-year unexpired term. That candidate, Jason M. Puetz, has already begun attending Library Board meetings. It is anticipated that he will be appointed to the vacancy in either January or February.

Also, three seats for four-year terms will appear on the April 2015 ballot, according to the regular election cycle for the Library Board. Three candidates filed to run for these three seats: Crystal Andel, Carl Gilmore and Sharon Kinley. All three candidates filed at 9:00am on December 15, 2014, the first day of filing. A simultaneous filing lottery was conducted on December 30, determining the ballot order: Kinley, Gilmore, Andel.

No objections were filed against any petitions for candidacy during the objection filing period.

The Certification of the Ballot has been submitted to the Will and Kendall County Clerks for the two elections. That concludes my duties as Local Election Official (LEO) for the April 2015 election.

Write-in candidates may file their Intent to Write-In forms at the County Clerk’s Office through February 5, 2015. But the LEO doesn’t have to do anything with those!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Election Services at the Library

One of the many “hats” I wear as the Library Director is to act as the Local Election Official (LEO) for the Library District. Every other year, when seats on the Library Board of Trustees are up for election, I oversee the process, ensure that the proper notices are published, documentation collected and disseminated, forms filled out and appropriate originals or copies filed with the County Clerk’s Office. Thankfully the Will County Clerk and State Board of Elections offer training and support for the library, park, fire and other types of districts that are responsible for these duties. It’s a strictly regulated and highly structured process – and absolutely imperative that it’s done correctly.

This week, from December 15 through December 22, is the filing period for candidates to appear on the ballot in April. Each potential candidate must fill out and file the appropriate forms for the office for which they seek election, along with the correct amount of signatures of registered voters for the office. When the candidate files the paperwork with the district, it’s the LEO (and/or their designees) who accept them and provide a receipt for the filing. If two or more candidates file at the same time, the LEO schedules and holds a lottery to determine the order in which the candidates’ names will appear on the ballot. Later, the LEO certifies to the County Clerk’s Office the ballot proof, showing exactly how the names will appear on the ballot. Each part of the process follows rules, some directly from state statute and some from the State’s Administrative Rules. My role in election services at the Library is to ensure that we follow the rules.

Did you know that overseeing the election process for the district isn’t the only election-related service offered by the Library? You can register to vote at the Library. Options for voter registration are:

Registration is open throughout the year except during the 27 days preceding an election. Registration reopens the second day following an election. However, if you missed the registration deadline prior to an election, you may be eligible for Grace Period registration. Voter registration, like election services, follows a complex set of rules. Your Library staff are available to help you through the process. Call or stop by for more information.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Planning for the Future

The planning process has begun! As you probably know if you’ve read this blog before, the current Library is too small for our community. While the Library staff has gotten very good at making do, being creative and patching problems, the needs that brought the 2009 referendum to vote still exist. Not only is the 27,000 square foot Library inadequate to serve 75,000+ people, it has also endured over 20 years of heavy public use. In 2011, through surveying and open forums, you told the Library Board an expansion was needed, but that you were not yet ready to have it on the ballot for economic reasons. The Library Board listened, creating a Strategic Plan that continued goals of Service Excellence, Community Focus and Stewardship while maintaining the aging and undersized facility. The final step in that Strategic Plan is planning for expansion, with a tentative referendum date of November 2016.

In November 2014, the Library Board of Trustees contracted with Anders Dahlgren of Library Planning Associates to update the Space Needs Analysis and Building Program, originally developed in 2007-2008. He is the first of a team of experts being assembled by the Library Board. In early 2015, finance consultants, architects and an owners’ representative will be selected to support the needs assessment phase of the planning process. By starting the planning process 2 years prior to a possible referendum date, the Library Board of Trustees will be able to create a plan and engage the community in providing meaningful feedback on it prior to any final decision to place a question on the November 2016 ballot.