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The Ypsilanti District Library has 5 library board candidates for the election on Tuesday, November 6. Read about who they are, and how they want to improve the library.

The information listed here is provided by the candidates and appears on  Vote411, a project of the League of Women Voters, a national nonprofit dedicated to voter education. YDL is sharing this information so that voters may be better informed, and does not endorse or promote any candidate. See more election and voting information.

Patricia J. Horne McGee

Incumbent
Nonpartisan candidate

Retired
Biographical Information

Campaign Phone: (734) 482-0951

Email: mcg1223.pjhm@gmail.com

Number of years as resident: Lifetime, 70

What in your education and experience make you the best qualified candidate for this position?
Patricia J. Horne McGee: I have been a user of the library and a supporter of the library and recognize the importance of a vibrant and dynamic library for the sustainability of a solid community for all residents. As a licensed social worker, (MSW) I am aware of the importance of the library to the entire community, especially many who do not have easy access to the internet. This includes students who use the library for completion of home work and connecting with other resources. For 25 years I served with low income families and their preschoolers (MA child development and Family life).. I have also been a tenured professor of social work and child development. In all areas I was clearly aware of the significance of the library in the growth of children and their families as well as college students. All of my preschoolers had library cards and frequently visited the library, either on site or through the book mobile. Because of this entree, many of their parents also used the facility, often.
What are your goals should you be elected and how will you work to accomplish them with current resources?
Patricia J. Horne McGee: My goal is to keep or expand the library availability and accessibility to all. And to insure it’s relevance in programming and materials for the citizens of the district.
What is the greatest challenge facing the library today?
Patricia J. Horne McGee: Maintaining resources and relevance in the face of shrinking resources.
In an age where more and more information is found online, how does a library stay relevant?
Patricia J. Horne McGee: The library remains relevant through acting on the feedback from the larger population, including those who are not regular library users, building programs to proactively respond to the needs of seniors, children and all in between; being attentive to the ethnic, religious, age and gender diversity in the service area and being responsive to the needs of them all in a non patronizing way. The library remains relevant by planning strategically with timely input from all of the stakeholders, and remembering that a large portion of our service area still may not have on line access.
Kristy Cooper

Nonpartisan candidate

Information Services Librarian, Canton Public Library
Biographical Information

Campaign Phone: (734) 218-5887

Email: kristycooper1@gmail.com

Website: http://www.facebook.com/kristylibrary 

Number of years as resident: 12

What in your education and experience make you the best qualified candidate for this position?
Kristy Cooper: I have an MSI from the University of Michigan (2006), and an MBA in non-profit management from Eastern Michigan University. I have played almost every role there is in public library work: Reference, shelving, policy development, IT support, web development, marketing, communications, budget preparation, community engagement, collection development, strategic planning, and shift supervision. I’m Level 1 certified by the Library of Michigan and have worked as a librarian at the Wayne Public Library, the William P. Faust Public Library, and now the Canton Public Library. Additionally, I’m a member of the American Library Association and the Michigan Library Association.
What are your goals should you be elected and how will you work to accomplish them with current resources?
Kristy Cooper: I would like to see our library system abolish fines. Fines stop folks living in precarity, who need the library the most, from accessing it’s resources. To clarify, this doesn’t mean removing all fines for damaged or lost materials, but waiving fines for overdue materials. The financial burden of these kinds of barriers keep people from coming back to use the library. Others under-utilize the library because of the fear of fines. As a librarian, I’ve watched too many parents tell their children they cannot check out books because they’re afraid of losing or damaging them and no longer being able to use the rest of the library’s resources. Access to pleasure reading is critical for becoming a successful lifelong reader and a fully engaged citizen. Fine abolition has been successfully implemented at a number of major library systems, so there are several thoughtful templates we can utilize to implement this kind of fine forgiveness program in our own community.
What is the greatest challenge facing the library today?
Kristy Cooper: The greatest challenge facing YDL is the upcoming millage vote which will give the library the budget necessary to operate a new full service branch in Superior Township. It’s important that Ypsilanti (city and township) residents know that a “yes” vote will not increase their taxes (in fact, they’ll actually decrease)!
In an age where more and more information is found online, how does a library stay relevant?
Kristy Cooper: Libraries stay relevant by continuing to evolve and adapt, which most are doing by providing digital formats (like ebooks and audiobooks) for patrons, acting as a community hub, bridging the digital divide, promoting early literacy, providing technology instruction, helping students learn how to accurately source information they find online, and expanding services that help the most vulnerable populations that need libraries more than ever right now.
Gordon Kangas

Nonpartisan candidate

Attorney
Biographical Information

Website: http://www.KangasForTrustee.com

Email: Campaign@KangasForTrustee.com

Number of years as resident: 6

What in your education and experience make you the best qualified candidate for this position?
Gordon Kangas: In some ways, the process of my education, rather than my education itself, is what well prepared me to be a library trustee. I received my entire education in our area. I worked to support myself through four years at Eastern Michigan University and by the time I started law school at the University of Michigan, I was married with a child, mortgage, and plenty of bills. During school, the library was invaluable. Preparing for law school can costs thousands of dollars, but I did it for free with library materials. When I needed a quiet place to study, the library was a solace. And when I wanted to learn a new skill for a better job, I taught myself with resources from the library. I understand how a library can change a life because it has for me. Whether residents want to pursue formal higher education, learn a new skill-set, or simply enrich their lives, the library is there for them. I believe my experience will be helpful in ensuring the library’s fidelity to that mission.
What are your goals should you be elected and how will you work to accomplish them with current resources?
Gordon Kangas: I have three primary goals. The first is to expand awareness. Sadly, most residents do not currently use library resources. Happily, spreading the word is something we can do by simply talking with each other more. If elected, I’m committed to meeting with community groups to build better connections and awareness. Second, I want to find better ways to help residents educate themselves. Existing resources make it possible for a teenager to teach herself how to build websites or an adult to learn how to start a small business mid-career. But they may need help navigating those resources. Through nearly costless partnerships with the area universities and businesses we can give people better direction to achieve their goals. Third, I want to get the library on solid financial footing. We have a well-managed library, but funding shortfalls have put it on thin financial ice. I’ll make judicious decisions to keep the library’s finances sound while still serving its core mission.
What is the greatest challenge facing the library today?
Gordon Kangas: The greatest current challenge is getting people to understand the value the library provides. When people don’t understand how an institution is contributing to their community, it becomes easy to let the institution fall into disarray, lose its way, or disband altogether. I believe our community cherishes the library; the community’s historic participation and support bear that out. But we cannot always control the future. I believe it is imperative that more people begin to see what the library can contribute to their own lives and what it is already contributing to their neighbors’ lives. If we don’t expand awareness and utilization of the library, we face two risks. First, a future financial downturn could mean reprioritizing one of the most essential resources in hard times. Second, with fewer voices and users, the library can lose its way in determining what resources are truly the best ones to prioritize in offering to residents. I’m confident we’ll meet the challenge.
In an age where more and more information is found online, how does a library stay relevant?
Gordon Kangas: Libraries continue to serve the same function now that they always have: connecting people with life-enriching resources. Traditionally, that was done exclusively through books. Now, the internet provides more options to people, and with greater ease. But the function remains. Far from making libraries irrelevant, the proliferation of online materials gives libraries a freer hand and a new opportunity. As information becomes free on the internet, the library can spend less on maintaining large, physical collections and more on broadening community access to the internet and the resources themselves. The books aren’t going anywhere of course, but the library can shift its focus to being a curator of information. The irony of free and abundant materials is that they make it more difficult to find the quality materials you’re looking for. The library, and its staff, can serve as ready and able assistants in those searches.
Bethany Kennedy

Nonpartisan Candidate

Librarian, Director of Access Services, WCC Bailey Library
Biographical Information

Website: http://www.facebook.com/bkennedy48197

Email: bethany.a.kennedy@gmail.com

Number of years as resident: 25

What in your education and experience make you the best qualified candidate for this position?
Bethany Kennedy: I received my Masters in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in 2005 and have 13 years of library administrative experience. Currently I serve the local community as the Director of Access Services at the Bailey Library at Washtenaw Community College. I have lived in Ypsilanti for 25 years and am raising my family here. Through all of my years as a librarian I have been and continue to be committed to strengthening the bonds between all types of libraries and the community. In 2008 during the economic downturn I was a founding member of LibraryBiz Connect. This was a grassroots organization comprised of public and academic librarians working together with business support non-profit organizations committed to supporting economic development and growth for stronger communities. Our organization directed current and potential small business owners to the tools and resources already available in our communities.
What are your goals should you be elected and how will you work to accomplish them with current resources?
Bethany Kennedy: Every community is dynamic and unique. The Ypsilanti District Library covers two townships and a city. My first goal would be to actively listen and seek out the needs of the community to learn and make informed decisions. I will accomplish this by spending time at all the library branches, attending community events and honest conversations with community members. The Ypsilanti District Library already prioritizes community partnerships. I would support existing community partnerships and encourage forging new ones. In my current position I have cultivated a network of community contacts and will draw on the support of professional associations.
What is the greatest challenge facing the library today?
Bethany Kennedy: Public libraries are all working in a time when more people have access to information and technology while also competing for limited resources, budgets and time. But I believe the greatest challenge facing the Ypsilanti District Library is the same challenge facing our community. We are a community still in recovery from a significant economic trauma, in the midst of a population and industry shift. It is difficult to anticipate what the future of our community will look like, but working together can only make us stronger.
In an age where more and more information is found online, how does a library stay relevant?
Bethany Kennedy: I believe the keys to staying relevant are to develop healthy connections with local support organizations, embrace change, and always keep a focus on the needs of the community. More and more information is found online, but not all of our community has access to that information. Libraries are one of the few truly open, accessible public spaces available in our society. This is a precious resource available, and relevant, to all our residents.
Theresa M. Maddix

Nonpartisan candidate

Web Project Manager, Michigan Medicine

 

Biographical Information

Campaign Phone: (734) 480-8205

Website: http://maddixforypsi.com

Email: theresa@maddixforypsi.com

Number of years as resident: 14

What in your education and experience make you the best qualified candidate for this position?
Theresa M. Maddix: Let me begin by acknowledging the talent of my fellow candidates—Pat Horne-McGee, Bethany Kennedy, Gordon Kangas and Kristy Cooper. I bring to this position a master’s degree in Information from the University of Michigan School of Information and experience working in libraries and museums, including the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Currently, I work at Michigan Medicine conducting user experience work to create the best possible websites at the 5th highest-ranked hospital system in the nation. My partners in website development are world class leaders in their fields and we work together to make sure that those seeking healthcare, education or research opportunities can find answers to their questions on the web. If elected, I will use the skills I’ve developed educationally and professionally to serve the library by carefully listening to constituents, studying the challenges the library faces and offering my assistance to a great local institution, the Ypsilanti District Library.
What are your goals should you be elected and how will you work to accomplish them with current resources?
Theresa M. Maddix: Timothy Healy, former head of the New York Public Library, said, “The most important asset of any library goes home at night – the library staff.” I have had the good fortune to meet Ypsilanti Library Director Lisa Hoenig and many members of her team and know firsthand that we can count ourselves fortunate to live in a district with such dedicated and passionate individuals working for us every day. If elected, I will work to support the ongoing work of the library as outlined in its 2017 strategic plan. A few specific areas of focus in the strategic plan include: – Maximizing the effects of library programs; – Improving the library’s fiscal health; and – Marketing the library more effectively. I also will schedule regular open meeting times to hear feedback and ideas from residents of the library service area that I can bring to the board and library employees.
What is the greatest challenge facing the library today?
Theresa M. Maddix: Our state is in the midst of a literacy crisis. Fewer than half of Michigan students in grades 3 to 8 demonstrate basic proficiency in reading (source: MI M-STEP data), and our 4th grade reading scores ranked poorly again this past year (35/50 states, source: NationsReportCard.gov). With literacy challenges it is natural to turn to the library for programs, extra support and resources to create better readers. The Ypsilanti District Library has responded by acting as a vital supporter of reading and literacy, even despite 11 years of lower revenue for itself. To continue to provide its vigorous support of developing reading skills, the millage proposal will need to pass. If not, our children’s literacy will suffer. The Superior Township library building schedule will be postponed; the popular Lunch and Listen program for youth will be cut; digital literacy resources and technology will become outdated and insufficient; and the library will be open for fewer hours each week.
In an age where more and more information is found online, how does a library stay relevant?
Theresa M. Maddix: I think the brilliant author Neil Gaiman responded to this perfectly when he said, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.” Two of Neil Gaiman’s books I particularly recommend are his more recent “American Gods” and the classic “The Graveyard Book.” These books along with so many treasures are available for free at the Ypsilanti District Library and not online. While there, I also recommend looking into books by some of my favorite mystery writers, the incomparable Louise Penny; the better than therapy Alexander McCall Smith and the best with multiple cups of tea, Elizabeth George.