By Cameron Rasmusson
With the East Bonner County Library District offering bigger facilities and more services than ever, the leadership of its board of trustees is similarly expanded. This Tuesday, May 21, voters will choose from three candidates to fill two open seats on the governing board. We talked with all three candidates to gather their thoughts about the library in interviews that have been edited for space.
Sandpoint Reader: Tell us a little bit about why you’re running for the library board. What are your qualifications?
Robert Diderich: I moved to Sandpoint after living in Sagle — I’ve been here five years — and it’s been good to me. I use the library a lot. I’ve probably checked out close to 650 books. … And I’ve looked at their website, and I’ve seen a few things I’d like to use my skills to improve. They’ve had to use an outside supplier for their software, and seeing as I’ve designed software most of my life … I see this as a win-win for everybody. … I also have a very strange educational background. I have five degrees … in engineering, meteorology, computer science, financial planning and (master of business administration.) Kind of a wild mix of education. So I’m always learning — you stop learning, you die.
Judy Meyers: Like many in our library district, … my life is richer because of a bookmobile service and the librarians who supported it. Now I have time to give back. Now that I’ve been on the board almost three years, I’m learning the history of issues we face, and can do a better job of planning for the future. For example, I’m on the committee working to develop the new Library Garden.
I’m a fiscal conservative, especially with taxpayer’s hard-earned money. I’ve got experience serving on many other types of groups. I’ve worked on two library fundraisers with Sandpoint Rotary. I’ve written grants. The most recent one will be used to support the Library Garden and our work to promote learning about childhood nutrition and activity.
Joan Terrell: I’m running for the library board because I believe libraries are essential for strong communities. I’m an advocate of lifelong learning. I feel we have a very good library here, and I would like to contribute what I can to the continued success of that.
Back in 2016, I was appointed as a trustee to fill a vacancy for nine months, I believe. At the time, the board was meeting with architects and finalizing the plans for the expansion. And not only was it fun, I learned a lot. Part of that was working cooperatively and being on committees.
SR: What are some of the challenges facing local libraries?
RD: From my perspective, they are constrained with how they improve their software systems because they are a part of a collection of libraries that this one company supports across the board. The important thing there is to work alongside the suppliers that maintain the software and ensure that our library and all libraries within the district get the best bang for their buck. My experience working with suppliers is … I was able to figure out the best strategy for that company to get the best result as our company got the best result at the same time. In order to do that, you have to plan out three or four years in advance what’s going to be done at what time with each update that will benefit the library at that time.
JM: Knowing how to best serve the patrons and the community. Just one example – at last night’s board meeting we worked on ways to best serve our 60-plus homebound patrons. We’re always looking at the services we provide. As an employer for 45-plus people, the director and the board have the same challenges other employers do. How do we attract and retain staff that will work well with the patrons, come with or learn new skills — especially the need for tech savvy?
JT: First of all, I think the library should be accessible to everyone in the community, no matter what. … Balancing all the needs of the community (is certainly a challenge.) We have a lot of people who live out in the woods and don’t have access to computers, so that’s one thing. The other thing is I think a lot of people would like the library to go in a certain direction, and the board listens to that, but if the library is to serve all, everything must be in a balance.
SR: Is there anything else you want to add about your candidacy?
RD: I wanted to learn more about what (trustees) do and how they do it in the community itself. Then I can see how I can apply my skills to benefit the library the most. This is me paying back a welcoming community for everything it’s done for me.
I view this as a community project, not a political project. I want to make sure my involvement, my influence, is strictly partisan for the library itself and nothing else. … There’s a lot of division out there, a lot of tribes out there, and the library shouldn’t be tribal. It should be strictly independent.
JM: Of course, we have a treasure of books. But we do so much more. I encourage people to read the library’s mission and vision statements on our website. That’s our reference point for prioritizing projects. The library staff, at both branches, are quite a wonderful group of people, all trying to do their best. … Another thing I’ve come to realize as I’ve been on the board and spent more time at the library is that we provide an important function in building community connections. We not only provide the physical space for meetings — especially now with our beautiful new addition — but our staff works hard to develop programs that connect people and make people feel welcome there.
JT: I’ve lived here for quite a while, and in my past I’ve worked as an educator in a variety of settings. I was an extension agent in the University of Idaho Bonner County extension program, and I really enjoyed working with the local 4-H program, its leaders and community, because it takes a community for a successful program. And I feel the same way about the library. It takes the staff, it takes the board of trustees and it takes the community to make a very strong cornerstone.
Election day is Tuesday, May 21. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. To find your polling place, go to IdahoVotes.gov.
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