(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 21, 2013)
Beyond the limelight of this year’s four-way Mayor’s race, is a ballot of unopposed candidates who have no campaigning to do in order to get elected. The Library Board of Trustees positions fall into this category. Yet because it is not often discussed, doesn’t mean that the election and the issues facing the Board are not important to the public.
Overseeing the Ferndale Public Library, including the tax money that goes to fund it, is a large task that affects thousands of people in the Ferndale community. Almost 235,000 people visit the library each year, and11,052 individuals have a FPL library card. Everyone’s taxes help fund their operations.
The recently remodeled building does more than just house books. It gives people access to computers, DVDs, CDs and a wide variety of educational and cultural events to create an atmosphere of all-around learning. And on top of it, green technologies make it a model for innovation and conservation that other communities strive to follow.
Incumbent Library Board Members Judeen Bartos, Monique Herzig, and Adrienne Gilmore have already gotten used to the long meetings and tough discussions about how to maintain library services in the wake of lower tax revenues. Bartos and Herzig will be voted in to full terms ending in 2020. Gilmore was appointed to her current spot, finishing out a term for Jim O’Donnell who resigned in January when he joined the Ferndale School Board instead. She will be voted in to fill the partial term ending in 2018. Frank Castronova will also be voted in for the same length of time.
Bartos, who has served since 2011 and is currently the Vice President, said that monitoring policies and procedures of the library are important. “We’re the governance of the Library,” she said. “The public trusts us to make sure we are meeting their needs.”
The hard part is how to meet those needs with shrinking resources. That’s the big role of the Library Board. “We can’t control what taxes come in, so we have to be creative with fundraising,” said Herzig.
The Library faced an $80,000 deficit this year due to lost tax revenue, double what they had expected. Money is also diverted from the Library millage into ‘tax captures’ like the Downtown Development Authority and Brownfield Redevelopment, a practice that is set in state law, but that Library Executive Director Jessica Keyser advocates changing.
The Ferndale Community Foundation awarded the Library Board a $2,500 grant to hire a consultant to help with a fundraising plan for 2014. In the meantime, the staff and Board have looked at multiple ways to save money and to raise it.
“One thing we’ve done is helping the Library remove barriers to collecting money. They set up a Paypal to make it easier for people to donate,” she said. “The Bookstore made over $900 in its first eight weeks.” The Friends of the Ferndale Library runs the bookstore and puts on many of the fundraising events, such as The Day of Books and Roses, and the 80’s prom. There is a Vortex wishing well that is making its way around local businesses, and is currently at Treat Dreams. Other businesses have gotten involved in fundraising efforts as well, even hosting benefit concerts. And earlier this year the Board voted to begin using a collection agency to recover costs of unreturned items.
Herzig said that Boards have traditionally been people with “backgrounds that are varied enough, who want what is in the Library’s best interest.” She joined the Board in 2010 when Sara Parmelee moved out of the city and had to resign. Herzig had been Parmelee’s next door neighbor. “There was a need, and I think the Library is important, so I wanted to serve.” Herzig’s background in marketing helps her to think outside the box about fundraising and events.
For Bartos, the Library is part of her life. “It’s my favorite place to hang out. It’s important for the kids,” Bartos said. “The readers of today are the leaders of tomorrow, so we need our kids to start out with a good foundation of literacy.” As a Trustee, Bartos seeks to protect access to information, including the “digital commons.”
“People use their libraries to look for jobs and print resumes. During Super Storm Sandy, libraries were the main place for printing FEMA forms, plugging in phones, using bathrooms. They really are a place that serves the people.”
Gilmore is a 6th grade teacher who works in Birmingham. “The public library is the most important institution in the community,” she said. “and our staff has a great sense of what the community needs.” She said events like art openings, poetry readings and live music bring the community together and help get them interested in reading more as well.
Castronova, who worked in a bookstore as a teen, is excited to be joining the Board. He brings with him graduate academic training in librarianship and a passion for learning. “Literacy and knowledge are important to all of us,” he said. “There’s great satisfaction in making the library better for everyone.”
Though the candidates are often left out of election forums when unopposed, Citizens for Fair Ferndale makes sure that all candidates have an opportunity to be heard. Their election forum will be held on Oct. 26 at the Library. There Herzig, Bartos, Gilmore and Castronova will have an opportunity to share their plans with the public and answer questions. The unopposed candidates for City Council (Greg Pawlica and incumbent Melanie Piana) will also be featured. For more on that forum, visit https://oaklandcounty115.com/citizens-for-a-fair-ferndale-to-hold-candidate-forum-oct-26/.
To learn more about the Ferndale Public Library, visit http://www.ferndale.lib.mi.us/.
For Ferndale election information, visit https://oaklandcounty115.com/category/election-information/.
For previous Library Board coverage, see: