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BIRMINGHAM LIBRARY BOARD

Four-year terms terms, Non-partisan, Vote for three

Wendy Friedman

Wendy Friedman


Wendy Friedman of Birmingham is self-employed as an independent college counselor. She received her bachelor's of fine arts in journalism from New York University and her master's degree from New York Institute of Technology. Friedman is active with the Society of Professional Journalism, Mi Reads, American Library Association and International Rhett Syndrome Foundation.


Library construction project


The third phase of the library construction process is now underway. Are you generally satisfied with the work that has been done to the Baldwin Library? Any suggestions you have that have not been addressed or will be addressed in this last phase of construction?


I’m at the library two-three times a week working on a project in the IDEA lab, meeting students I counsel, or doing the scavenger hunt alongside my granddaughters before they hang out exploring the books and toys. My visits continue with no barriers to my purpose. Just as BPL pivoted smoothly during the first two construction phases and COVID, it has adapted seamlessly again. From relocating the library’s entrance to helping patrons find their destination, the staff provides excellent signage for visitors outside and inside. When guests enter the library, they’re met by a welcoming group of individuals ready to help them navigate whatever they want. If elected, I’m confident I will join the other board members in deciding the few remaining decisions, such as the best solution for the birds hitting the glass, with the same thoughtfulness and fiscal prudence for the community's best interest shown in the past.


Library of the future


The role of public libraries has changed dramatically over the years. What role do you think a library should play in supporting the community? Moving through the coming years, are there services that the Baldwin Library could be providing in the future that are not offered now? Please be specific.


If we want our library to flourish in the future, we must continue to ensure it's a well-resourced, safe, inclusive public space that's accessible to all. This could mean expanding our outreach efforts to under-resourced communities. We could provide electronic devices for library check-out, such as laptops, USB digital storage, drawing pads, and cameras. We could also offer more expensive items for in-library use, like music recording systems. We could deliver more materials to those in need. We could provide more in-library services, such as a notary, to our local patrons. We could offer devices for visually or hearing-impaired individuals. I'm confident that if we continue to expand our offerings from programming to devices to services, the Baldwin Public Library will remain the community place to learn, discover, and connect in the future.


Censorship of books in the library


Libraries are often referred to as “the last bastions of free speech” in terms of offering a diverse collection of works to the public. Do you think local residents should be allowed to attempt to censure books available in a library? What is the role of a library board member in advocating for intellectual freedom?


All libraries find themselves in difficult waters with book bans. Library board members should act as staunch library advocates to ensure its intellectual freedom. This approach means BPL offers a diverse, relevant collection for all, where everyone can see themselves reflected in literature. As a college counselor, two students recently told me the library provided a safe space for them to learn about gender identity issues without checking books out. Since free speech belongs to all, residents who feel differently have a right to advocate their perspectives. I don't want anyone telling me what I can read, nor do I want to tell parents what their children can read. We should engage with those community members in a reasoned exchange of ideas based on mutual respect. It would be the board's job to bolster the library director and staff to hold fast to the library's beliefs through our outspoken support.


Role of a library board member


Earlier this year the city attorney had to remind board members that it was not appropriate for board members to reach out directly to contractors providing services on the library construction process rather than taking up any concerns or issues with the library director. In other words, working through paid staff that answers to the board. How would you define your role as a member of the library board?


The library board represents the community's best interests in assuring the library meets its needs and wants. All public libraries welcome visitors from near and far and typically aim to offer the best, most up-to-date, inclusive services for all. The board is instrumental in setting the library rules and policies, creating its strategic plan, acting fiscally responsible to our taxpayers and donors, and hiring the library director. However, the execution of the day-to-day work of the library is the responsibility of the director and staff. Baldwin Public Library's Rebekah Craft has shown she's a leader with a vision and has assembled an incredible team to manage the library's day-to-day operations. A board member's role is to support the work of the director and staff – rather than usurp it. While board members don't always agree, engaging in a respectful discussion is essential.


Respecting the Open Meetings Act


This past spring the city attorney had to issue an opinion of sorts to the library and its board that the Michigan Open Meetings Act (OMA) may not have always been followed by members of the board, especially when it comes to committees of the board. Prompting this opinion was the fact that a library construction-related committee (Owners/Architects/ Contractor Committee) was holding meetings described as more like private “workshops” that were not always open to the public, even though members of the board were in attendance. Further, the city attorney advised that board members who are not members of a library board advisory committee should not be attending such meetings. Do you understand the Open Meetings Act and the nuances of the act that must not be violated by those on the six-member library board?


I do understand the Opening Meetings Act and its nuances. Not only have I read the Act, but also its history and evolution. It’s very detailed and precise in its restrictions. I admire the work that went into its creation, including its definitions of standard terms used, such as “meetings,” leaving little room for interpretation. For example, the nuanced rules pertain even to a casual “library business” discussion among board members. The OMA states that “all “meetings/discussions,” including those informal meetings, emails, or texts between library board members must occur in a public forum. If I found myself conversing with a board member where I felt unsure about our discussion or the OMA, I would table our conversation rather than unintentionally breach a rule. OMA is very restrictive so that no violation of public trust or the tenets of government transparency occurs.


Validity of election results


Do you believe the results of the 2020 Presidential Election were valid?


Yes, absolutely.


Your qualifications


Why should voters select you for a position on the library board? What qualifications do you offer for this position? What are you most excited about to offer to the board?


I've always had an innate curiosity about the world around me. During my weekly library visits, I'd always find the answers. My early searches honed my resourcefulness – which was essential for my journalism career. The demands of a severely disabled daughter led to my pivot to teaching journalism. I also began fundraising and advocating for research for my daughter's disorder. I launched an annual fundraiser raising millions of dollars. My connections led to a successful million-dollar ask of a donor to create a medical research foundation for Rett Syndrome. Presently, I run a college counseling practice. Working with teens gives me an intuitive understanding of the next generation. Lastly, my service on two non-profit boards gives me an intimate knowledge of fiduciary responsibility, cash-flow cycles, strategic planning, and policy development for an organization serving its members. I'm most excited to bring my passion and skills to the board.


Karen Rock

Karen Rock

Karen Rock of Birmingham is a retired community school organizer at Quarton Elementary School. She has a bachelor's degree in economics and English from University of Michigan and an MBA from University of Detroit. She is currently a board member of Baldwin Public Library and the board's vice president, where she has worked on the Books 'n Bites fundraiser. Rock is also on the board of the Quarton Lakes Neighborhood Association board and is its Quacker newsletter editor; is an Oakland Literacy Council tutor; and is involved with The Birmingham Musicale.


Library construction project


As a current member of the Baldwin Public Library Board, I am very pleased with BPL’s construction process and the way board members have worked together step by step to discuss and decide on various details, including the selection of the architect and the construction manager. The Building Committee that includes two board members and the Owner/Architect/Contractor Committee, attended by the library director, have frequent meetings and report to the board where decisions are made at monthly board meetings. We have examined and reviewed everything thoroughly with an eye on the budget and fiscal responsibility. I look forward to the new entrance, Friends of the Library space, and to using the new, light-filled community cafe area and the outdoor terrace. They will be welcome additions to the library and community.


Library of the future


Baldwin Public Library exemplifies creative and responsive approaches to the communities it serves. BPL offers curbside services, mailings of materials, use of its computers, online and in-person classes and programs, musical and other programs, book clubs, outreach to senior communities, rental of meeting rooms, and outdoor programs and activities. During the 2023 winter storms, BPL was a refuge for those without electricity to stay warm, use the library, and mingle with neighbors. BPL’s Idea Lab is another feature that has developed and expanded. Libraries of the future are becoming increasingly community-oriented and technologically-based in providing services and materials that fit the various interests of their communities. Additional partnering and outreach involving local businesses and organizations will likely occur in the future. A “library of things,” where a variety of items requested by the community and available for loan could be a new, desirable service.


Censorship of books in the library


As a member of BPL Board’s Policy Committee, I understand that some library patrons may want to limit particular choices in the library. Policies at BPL have been established that provide guidance for the development of the library’s collections. There is also a formal process for the library director and board to evaluate a patron’s request to limit particular materials. The policy confirms that parents have responsibility for the materials their own children and adolescents read or view. I uphold the ALA Freedom to Read Statement and the rights of other library users to not have their access to materials limited due to an individual’s or group’s desire to restrict access to particular materials.


Role of a library board member


I believe responsibilities of BPL board members include the following: representing users of the library; respecting and working well together with other board members as a team; being well prepared for board and committee meetings; supporting board decisions; establishing, reviewing and updating library policies and bylaws; supporting and evaluating the library director’s management of the library and its grounds; approving an annual library budget and expenditures; outreach and communication within the library’s communities; developing strategic plans; and acting as a library advocate. In addition, board members must be financially responsible in the use and raising of funds. The library director is responsible for the management of the library, with direction and review by board members.


Respecting the Open Meetings Act


I am familiar with the Open Meetings Act, and understand that it applies to BPL board activities, monthly, committee and/or special meetings, communications between board members on topics pertaining to the board, and social gatherings where two or more board members are present. Committees may make recommendations, but not decisions. The OMA is designed to promote openness and transparency, such that the public may know how our decisions are made, and discussions, opinions, and votes by board members are not secret or hidden from the public. The BPL board is a non-partisan group of elected or appointed Birmingham residents who are advised of OMA guidelines by the city’s attorney. All meetings are publicly noticed, as required. Information about the OMA is additionally available online, and from the American Library Association, and Michigan Library Association.


Validity of election results


Yes, I believe the results of the 2020 Presidential Election were valid.


Your qualifications


My work on Policy, Personnel, and Strategic Planning Committees for the BPL board has been challenging and exciting, as BPL and libraries continue along a digitally progressive path. Prior to board membership, I helped plan several Books n’ Bites fundraisers for BPL. As a Birmingham area resident for 50-plus years who had children attend Birmingham Public Schools, I’ve witnessed the library and Birmingham experience growth and many positive changes. After earning a B.A. in economics from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the University of Detroit, I held financial positions at two large Detroit companies. Later, I held a community education position at Quarton Elementary School, edited two community newsletters, and was a member of an ad hoc Birmingham committee, tutor for Oakland Literacy Council, and be a board member of the Quarton Lake Neighborhood Association. I look forward to helping BPL further its community-centered role.


Curtis Trimble

Curtis Trimble


Curtis Trimble of Birmingham is president of Solyco Wealth. He has a bachelor's degree in economics from Swarthmore College and an MBA from Rice University. He is a volunteer wrestling coach at Seaholm High School.


Library construction project


I’m a fan of the third and final phase of Baldwin’s renovations. The addition of the café to encourage community members enjoying Shain Park to visit the library is a great idea. I believe the final product will present a great melding of the old and the new, maintaining the history of the library while providing the necessary accessible infrastructure to ensure Baldwin can serve our community for many years to come. Utilizing lessons learned from past projects, I anticipate heightened attention being paid to potential water drainage and leakage issues after completing the renovations. Revisiting planned maintenance and inspection protocols should heighten confidence in avoiding such issues in the future.


Library of the future

In the eyes of each of my three daughters, I’m almost always behind the times nowadays. I think I’m pretty up to speed, however, on Baldwin’s efforts to integrate with the Birmingham community. From Jeff’s (Jimison, Idea Lab supervisor) desire in the Idea Lab to help people solve practical household problems or create beautiful works of art to Rebecca (Craft, library director) and the staff’s outreach efforts to get books and media in front of the eyes of community members by shipping books through the mail and expanding digital access to literary and information resources outside the physical facility, Baldwin more than meets the community halfway. I’d love to help Baldwin gain more direct interactions with the community, possibly hosting more authors for readings and Q&As at the Birmingham Theater and in the high schools’ auditoriums or new theaters. I’m also interested in identifying and implementing new ways for our oldest and youngest populations to interact more at Baldwin.


Censorship of books in the library


I encourage residents to share thoughts and views on library materials. This being said, as Baldwin provides a public service, these materials should serve the interests of the entire community. Limiting access and restricting the intellectual curiosity of our community to appease fears and concerns of a small faction of the public would be antithetical to Baldwin’s mission to provide opportunities for everyone to learn and grow. Baldwin retains a superb library staff with excellent judgement that deserves the respect of the people it serves. As a library board member, I believe it important to preserve these relationships by assuring that sound judgement continues to serve the needs of everyone in Birmingham.


Role of a library board member


Baldwin Library board members serve two primary functions. First, aiding the director and staff to do their jobs to the best of their abilities on a day-to-day basis. Second, ensuring that sufficient financial resources remain present for the director and staff to do so now and in the future. Sound operating and fiscal policies define the tools with which the board should fulfill these two functions. Paramount to the board and director each fulfilling their respective duties: transparent, respectful communications. I’m a fan of the “yes, and” approach to addressing concerns and solving problems rather than the “no, but” path to animosity and excuses.


Respecting the Open Meetings Act


Yes.


Validity of election results


Yes.


Your qualifications


My family and I actively use Baldwin. I access its digital services on a daily basis, reading The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times on a daily basis. I visit the library at least a time or two a week to read Barron’s, pick up books for me, my wife, or daughters, and check the new movie selections. I value these services and want to extend them and more to my fellow Birmingham community members. The Idea Lab fascinates me: I wish others in Birmingham would come and check out how cool it is. I’m excited to see what else Rebecca and the staff will do in the future to incorporate the new spaces into their offerings for the community. As a successful finance professional, I’m certain that my accounting, budgeting, and investing skillsets will enable her and her staff to do so, with all of us serving Baldwin and its patrons very well.

Jennifer Wheeler

Jennifer Wheeler


Jennifer Wheeler of Birmingham is currently the Baldwin Public Library's board president. She has a degree from Western Michigan University in economics, and is active in her PTA.


Library construction project


Yes, I am very satisfied. I feel the current board has done a great job of debating and talking through ideas at our meetings. Baldwin board and Director (Rebecca) Craft have also offered several opportunities for public feedback during phase three. We are all trying to provide a great end project to the public, while also being cost conscious with public dollars. For phase three, some of our goals were accessibility by providing a ramp that is not so steep and exposed to the elements and an elevator, a café area for collaboration and study, a dedicated Friends (of the Library) book sale space and a better flow for patrons to easily see where to go when needing assistance.


Library of the future


I feel that libraries are becoming centers for the community to gather. People are no longer using libraries just to check out materials, but also for a myriad of other uses. As a new mom, I attended story times, not only connecting and laughing with my new baby, but also making some of my best friends. I was able to learn parenting tips from a counselor Baldwin had come in to provide helpful seminars. As my kids have grown, we enjoy making projects in the Idea Lab and yes, also checking out materials, including hot spots for when we travel! I do not feel Baldwin is lacking any programming or offerings, or I would feel very comfortable making that suggestion to the director.


Censorship of books in the library


I believe in intellectual freedom. I think different families and individuals may have comfort levels that vary, but that should not impact each other and what they may want to read and have access to.


Role of a library board member


I am currently serving as president at Baldwin Public Library. I feel my job is to support the director to help uphold Baldwin’s mission statement and serve the community. I also love working on policies to help Baldwin be a place for everyone and that all feel welcome.


Respecting the Open Meetings Act


Yes


Validity of election results


Yes


Your qualifications


I am currently serving as president of the Board at Baldwin Public Library. I have served as a board member and trustee for almost four years. Prior to that, I was a chair of the Books and Bites fundraiser to help raise money for the youth room renovation and expansion. My children and I also have been attending programing for years. I am involved in the school PTAs, having served in many roles including PTA President at Pembroke Elementary and currently as President Elect at Birmingham Covington School. I am a working mother, but have always found joy in volunteering, I love Baldwin and only want the best for the library, the staff and the community. What am I most excited for? The opportunity to serve and volunteer for the amazing Birmingham community and our valued contract communities.

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