While library board members and leaders are usually elected or appointed, one library district will be awarding its top role to the young library user who provides the best reasons for wanting to be library president—for a day, at any rate.
On September 1, Niles Public Library District (NPLD), IL, opened its Library Board President for a Day Contest to local students in grades K–8, asking for five to ten sentences explaining why they want to be library president. Winners will receive a “key to the library,” recognition at the November board of trustees meeting, front row seats at events, and the chance to help plan some of the library’s programming. Contestants must either hold a Niles Public Library District card or attend a school served by the district. Deadline for entries is October 23, and the winner will be announced on November 18, Election Day.
The contest was created by Sasha Vasilic, NPLD public relations and marketing supervisor, in collaboration with the library’s KidSpace youth services department. KidSpace runs a number of activities, such as its bookmark contest for National Library Week, throughout the year. But with this year’s presidential election on everyone’s mind, Vasilic told Hotline, it seemed like a good opportunity for a more topical enterprise.
PRESIDENT FOR A DAY
Would-be Presidents for a Day can pick up a form at the library or download it from the NPLD website. Once all submissions are in, Vasilic and library director Susan Lempke will put together a small committee to read the entries and make their decision. Vasilic hopes to include at least one member of the board, as well, noting, “I think it would be fun for them to read some of the entries beforehand.”
The role will come with a variety of perks. The key to the library—similar to a key to the city, for ceremonial purposes only—will be awarded at the November 16 board of trustees meeting by NPLD’s seven-person board (presumably Linda Ryan, president for the other 364 days of the year, will be allowed to attend). Although the winner will only be required to attend the first part of the meeting, perhaps leading the Pledge of Allegiance that begins the proceedings, “If they would like to sit through the whole meeting, they’re obviously more than welcome to,” said Vacilic, “to get a sneak peek at what goes on during a board meeting.”
The President for a Day and family will get reserved front-row seats to one of KidSpace’s Second Sunday Specials—a coveted spot for a monthly program that showcases music, magic, performance, animals, or crafts, and which “usually gets pretty packed,” according to Vasilic. The winner will also get to pick a (G-rated) movie of their choice to be shown on the library’s big screen on the last Saturday of the month. And in order to put their personal brand on the position, the President for a Day will choose some favorite books, music, and movies, to be arranged in a library display in their honor.
INPUT FOR THE BOARD
Although focused on the library, the competition is a good way to bring current events to the dinner table, said Vasilic. “Parents are including their kids in the [national] presidential process by watching the debates with them, or any other sort of news coverage, to teach them about our government. So this is a great conversation piece for parents.” The contest could offer the opportunity to explain to younger children about what a president does and how an election is run, he noted; for older kids, it could provide a glimpse behind the scenes at the library.
“I’m definitely getting a lot of positive feedback from the librarians in the KidSpace department about parents being interested in their kids participating,” said Vacilic. “We’ve sent it out to the local schools to spread the word…. I think a lot of people are really finding it to be very clever.” The American Library Association (ALA) agrees, and has asked Vasilic to put together a program model, complete with a sample entry form, for other libraries interested in implementing a similar competition.
The responses, coming from such a wide age range of engaged library users, are sure to be fascinating, Vasilic told Hotline. Aside from generating good publicity from the community and interest from local kids, hearing from young library patrons could also be useful to board members. “We know…when we look at our board, what they want for the library. But it would be really interesting to us to hear [from] somebody so young, what they see as necessary,” he noted. “Sometimes we think, as adults, that we know everything, but sometimes you hear a child say something simple, and…that’s the answer! We’re very interested in hearing what the kids say about the library, if they want to recommend anything, or if they were president, what they would do.”
The entries Vasilic has read so far—more than a dozen at press time—bear this out. “We really have a wide range of opinions and thoughts on what they would do for the library,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of smart kids out there.”