Fascinating time at the Suburban Unity Alliance-sponsored Candidate Forum hosted at the library tonight. Despite pouring rain, thirty candidates for local office (library board, school board, village management, park district, etc.) showed up, and about fifty voters who wanted to hear what we had to say for ourselves. Each candidate got two minutes to introduce themselves, and then took questions from the moderator and from the audience. Although it was the end of a long teaching day and I was pretty tired (it ran from 6 – 9), I actually really enjoyed myself.
All those years of teaching meant that I wasn’t too nervous being up in front of a crowd and on the spot, and after the intros, I got a chance to try to think through and problem-solve some library issues. I still don’t really know if I’m any good at campaigning, but the job of actually being on the board, I think I can do. It’s not too dissimilar to what we worked on in program meetings when I was working as an administrator for Asian American Studies, or what I do in running DesiLit and the SLF.
Of course, it helps a ton that our library is already pretty splendid, so it’s mostly a matter of building on the excellent programs, staff, and facilities that we already have, helping to re-envision what a 21st century library can be. We hired a social worker last year, which I think is a great initiative for a semi-urban environment that does still face class-and-race-based challenges. And we’re looking to get rid of fines, which are a barrier to access; I think that’s going to help a lot to boost library participation overall, especially from those economically marginalized communities. Exciting times to be involved with the library!
And the best part of last night was actually the people. I was impressed by the other candidates for library board — naturally, I would like people to vote for me, but the other several candidates bring a lot to the table, and I think every one of them would offer the library interesting views and innovative ideas. I got to talk to some of the school board candidates too, during the meet-and-greet, and they were very cool and interesting.
One consequence of running for office is that it’s gotten me out of my stay-at-home rut; I’m watching a lot less tv and doing a lot more going out and meeting people. In the last few weeks, I’ve probably met at least fifty interesting new people, all civic-minded and committed to making our community a better place with their ideas and effort. A lot of potential new friends. It’s pretty great. 🙂