The new patio area on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, at the Forest Park Public Library. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

The Forest Park Public Library Board of Trustees agreed to put out a call to residents interested in volunteering for its committees, with the Policy Committee being first on the list. 

For many years, the library bylaws called for a community member to sit on the finance committee, and they allowed the board to appoint residents to other standing committees as well. During a March 27 special board meeting, Brooke Sievers, board president, raised the issue that the bylaws didn’t explicitly outline the appointment process or spell out exactly what they did. The staff developed an amendment to address those gaps during the spring, with the board approving the changes on May 15.  

With the new policies in place, the board spent the July 17 meeting discussing how they would actually go about recruiting residents. They agreed to prioritize the policy committee, with the goal of potentially reviewing resumes as soon as next month. The move comes as libraries everywhere face heightened scrutiny from residents, and pressures to remove materials reached new heights.

Under the bylaws, the library board has three standing committees – policy, finance and buildings. During the past meetings, the trustees agreed that, with the significant renovations completed, the buildings committee doesn’t have to meet often, but policy and finance committees should meet on a regular basis. 

The finance committee’s duties are to “monitor the working budget, prepare yearly budget, annual Appropriation and Tax Levy and funding sources.” The policy committee’s duties are to “review current policies and make recommendations to the board for changes and additions and to make recommendations on new policies.”

Each committee must include at least two trustees, the library director and a staff member. Under the changes approved in May, the committee can also choose to appoint a community member.

 Interested residents must submit a resume and a letter of interest. The full board will then review the documents and interview the candidates, if necessary. The board would then vote on who to appoint. The resident will serve for one year, and the board will have the right to reappoint them for as many terms as it wants.

During the March 27 meeting, trustees broadly agreed that there was value in having a resident on a finance committee, because it deals with how the library would spend tax dollars. They also talked about how some community members can bring skills and experience that might be useful to the committees’ decision-making. 

During the July 17 meeting, library director Vicki Rakowski suggested that the board recruit for the policy committee first, since they have some important policies, such as the social media policy, on the docket in the next few months. With the finance committee, timing was an issue, she said, because they might not be able to get someone in place before the committee has to start working on the tax levy.

Library policies and decision-making processes have come under the microscope in recent years across the country as they face a growing number of requests to remove materials. While the Forest Park library hasn’t seen the upswing, on Jan. 16, the board updated its policies on requests to remove materials to limit such requests to Forest Park residents and business owners. 

After some discussion, the trustees agreed to develop an online advertisement for the position, which would go up on the library website and could be potentially shared in the village and the library newsletters, with the goal of reviewing the resumes during the regularly scheduled Aug. 21 board meeting. 

Board member Keary Bramwell said she didn’t expect the board to get “flooded” with applications. 

“This is a community of volunteers,” responded Sievers.