Library board called special meeting to address next steps

Tuesday Jan. 14, Highwood Public Library’s board called a special meeting to talk about next steps after the January city council meeting the week before. Board president Lucy Hospodarsky opened the meeting. There were comments from the public.

Hospodarsky suggested the Jan. 7 council meeting felt contentious because it was the first presentation of the library’s new plan. She suggested the Library Board and City Council need to come together more often and proposed starting a workshop with the Mayor which would be representative of both bodies in order to discuss the needs of the City and the Library.

Hospodarsky noted that since the city supported the library’s increased tax levy they support the library’s general mission. A few of the trustees were concerned that some on the council were less supportive of the library’s vision, particularly after the council meeting on Tuesday.

Hospodarsky summarized the situation saying, as she sees it, there are competing visions for the future of the library. No one wants the library to fail, however, things have changed.

Library Director Carmen Patlan spoke as well. She clarified that the intent of the Jan. 7 presentation before city council was to show that the library is outgrowing the space, not some effort to cut the city off at the knees, as the mayor suggested.

Patlan also related a pair of episodes that happened over the last two days (Jan. 13 and 14). Patlan said an alderman paid an unannounced visit to her at the library.

She was careful not to mention his name, but said the alderman told her all seven alderman agreed with him and felt the library should agree to go back to the original plan with no changes. According to Patlan, the alderman said if the board didn’t go back to their old posture, the city would close them down.

Moreover, Patlan said the alderman told her that City Council would hold a vote at their Feb. 4 meeting agreeing to stick with their previous decisions regarding the Library (and sharing space). There were library staff present when this alderman spoke to Patlan and Patlan expressed concern that they were disturbed by the alderman’s comments.

Hospodarsky said she would speak to Mayor Pecaro about the alderman’s visit.

Hospodarsky clarified that at the last library board meeting, the board voted they wanted to keep the space. She suggested one solution might be to punch out an addition in the front of the building that would leave room to grow in the back. 

Paul Martinez contributed to this report.

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