RB Landmark sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The candidates’ replies are as shown as they were received by the Landmark. For more on a candidate, click their name or photo.
1. Why are you running for the Riverside Public Library board?
I am running for Riverside Public Library Board to continue my involvement with the Library, and to continue my commitment to serve the community of Riverside. I have had the pleasure of being a Library Board member since 2015. I served as VP from 2017 until 2020, when I accepted my current position of Library Board President.
As a Riverside resident for the last 18 years, I’ve witnessed our Library evolve to fill a crucial gap in our small community – a place where all community residents can gather to meet, exchange ideas, find new ideas, and continue their life-long learning.
As a professional who has worked with for-profit, philanthropic and non-profit organizations to continually evolve their products, I have a great deal of respect for the work that’s been done and welcome the opportunity to advise on and directly support those continued efforts by serving on the Board.
As an avid reader, libraries have always held a special place in my heart. Beyond books, the Riverside Public Library is particularly wonderful because of its architecture, historic status and unofficial role as our community center. It’s one of the first places I visited upon moving to Riverside and I quickly felt at home.
Library trustees are entrusted with maintaining and enhancing both the primary purpose of the library – to promote lifelong learning and discovery through diverse resources, enrichment opportunities and cooperative partnerships – and the library itself through projects like the lower level renovation, masonry repairs and the new HVAC system. We as a board have accomplished much in recent years and demonstrated good stewardship. I am running for re-election because I believe I can continue to contribute to the success of this vital resource.
2. What experience and perspectives would you bring to the position and how would they be valuable as an elected official?
During my tenure as a Library Board member, and as Building Committee Chairman, I have been involved in many projects to grow and enhance the unique architectural atmosphere of the library and helped usher the library into the 21st century. I was active with the design phases of the Lower Level renovation, and contributed my leadership, with the Board, as we campaigned for a successful $1.5M bond referendum to see the renovation come to fruition. In 2017, I oversaw the installation of a much-needed new $375k HVAC system. Ongoing projects for the 93-year-old landmarked facility have also included new elevator installation, bathroom renovations, roof and masonry repairs, and addressing of accessibility issues. I am pleased to have contributed my time, knowledge and experience for these projects.
Starting from my earliest memories as a child in DeKalb, the community library has been a place of wonder, of breadth, and scale that inspired awe in my young imagination. I believe that this is one of the most important roles libraries have – to welcome in young imaginations and fuel them – not just with materials but by also being physically present in these marvelous spaces.
I still believe libraries inspire us and are a critical resource for valuing, preserving, and making knowledge accessible. Libraries, and the communities they serve, thrive when we find new ways to engage thinkers, connect individuals to new ways of thinking, and most importantly, help patrons develop a deeper understanding.
I have a broad professional background that includes a strong understanding of budgeting and fundraising, strategic thinking, the work it takes to weave strategic principles into everyday operations, and teamwork.
My work with nonprofits and foundations both professionally and as a prior board member also gives me a unique perspective on how to adapt these principles to the particular governance structures and operational features of the RPL.
I value the mission of the RPL and will work hard to strengthen that mission.
As a communications and marketing professional, I bring a range of soft and hard skills to the library that have proven useful, such as problem solving, message development, promotional strategy and critical thinking. I also have a deep understanding of the property tax system due to my time as a reporter and as communications director for the Cook County Clerk. As a parent, I have advocated for robust programming and services at the library for the children of our community. Finally, I strongly believe in our library’s vision statement, and I will continue to priortize fosting an environment that is welcoming to all.
3. What do you believe are some of the greatest challenges facing the library?
The library’s mission has always been to promote lifelong learning and discovery to all patrons through diverse resources, enrichment opportunities and cooperative partnerships. With the cooperation of library staff and management, the Library Board makes every effort to be conscious of evolving challenges facing libraries today. We are facing these challenges head-on by providing amenities that are now typically expected in other libraries. With STEAM and STEM education becoming more prevalent, we are providing new opportunities for experimentation and learning. Libraries are no longer “book depositories” with shelves and shelves of books, but rather, creative spaces with cutting edge technology, like our Glowforge machine, or 3D printers. We are constantly adding to our “Library of Things” collection, which now include sewing machines, media projectors, home energy kits, laptops, hotspots, musical instruments, digital cameras, and a metal detector among other items.
As a Library Board we can’t predict the future, but we can do our best to implement changes that encourage better library use for all our patrons.
I think all libraries, including ours, find themselves in difficult waters right now with regard to limiting access to material – censorship if you want to be plain about it. It will continue to be the Board’s job to support and bolster the Library director and staff, to hold fast to our mission through outspoken support, and engage our community in a reasoned exchange of ideas based on mutual respect.
In Riverside, in our uniquely small community, the Library serves such a crucial function as a forum – a public meeting place – for residents and patrons to gather and exchange ideas. The programming in recent years from the RPL has been outstanding in its depth and breadth and embraces this role as convener. I look forward to supporting that work.
Lastly, we have a historic building that will continue to need our care. The preservation and care of our gorgeous building is also front and center for the Board.
The single greatest challenge facing our library (and libraries around the country) is the attempt to ban books. As many in this community know, such an attempt was made by two Riverside residents earlier this year and I am proud of the library board for our unanimous decision to keep the title, “Gender Queer.” Book banning is a form of censorship and it’s a very slipperly slope. I stand firmly against censorship of any kind in our library.
Daniel Loucks did not submit responses.