Six candidates vying for three Trustee seats on Blanchard Library Board
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: October 26, 2012
Normally quiet Blanchard Community Library (BCL) is abuzz with the upcoming election that has six candidates vying for the three trustee seats to be decided by voters November 6.
A number of candidates have been questioning library practices and the state of the facility, as well as the proposed new contract for longtime Librarian Dan Robles that has been shelved again and again by the current board. A Facebook page has even popped up urging voters to reject one candidate, created by a private citizen but using a photo of the library building.
Longtime Trustees Ed Geis and Ninette Reyes are retiring from the board, which oversees all library business. There are five first time candidates: Kathy Ashby, Juan Corona Jr., Maureen Coughlin, Lisa Sorenson, and Linda Spink. Beverly Mueller, a board Incumbent since 2004, is also running.
Ashby has managed the nonprofit area Meals on Wheels for eight years and is also employed as a Weight Watchers International leader working in sales and with clients seeking weight management.
A graduate of Brigham Young University (BA in Humanities) and a Santa Paula resident for 19 years, Ashby said, “I have been involved in library programs from the beginning... Blanchard Library was the first place we discovered when we moved here,” and it served “as an important focal point for our family,” including as a valuable resource for materials for home schooling.
Ashby said her family always enjoyed the child friendly atmosphere of BCL and although now empty nesters, Kathy and her husband Duane remain involved to “return the years of service rendered to our family” and particularly enjoy being involved in the BCL annual Christmas program for children. Ashby said such are the BCL programs “that make me love our library and want to return the years of service rendered to our family. I want to see the library continue to offer the many programs it always has and to remain a viable resource to the community.”
And, as Santa Paula grows with new development, Ashby said, “I would hope that we can make and keep the library available and open as often as possible with as much to offer as any library in the county and surrounding area.”
Corona, a retired surveyor in the public and private sector, is a long time BCL FLAIR (Family Literacy Aid In Reading) volunteer who said he is running “in order to maintain what I think is a wonderful organization.”
A Santa Paula native and Air Force veteran, Corona started working as a volunteer with the FLAIR program in 2005, teaching people how to read and other skills. “Presently,” said Corona, “I have 10 students and three classes” of FLAIR students.
Corona would like to continue to serve the community and the library that has always offered him support: “Everybody has helped me when I have asked, and I want to run to understand more of the inner working of the library.”
Mueller has professional experience with the Ventura County Library, where she qualified as a Branch Library Assistant. She has done bookkeeping and budgeting as well, and served on other boards including parent teacher organizations at Blanchard and Villanova Preparatory schools.
Mueller is also an experience fundraiser, and served on the Task Force 2000 citywide magnet school committee. She is second term president of Altrusa International San Buenaventura that oversees numerous projects and social programs, including those related to reading and libraries. She also worked at BCL for six years in Technical Services.
Mueller said, “We have been doing book-mending workshops at Blanchard Community Library, which have garnered the library two regular volunteers to mend our books,” resulting in more 400 books being returned to circulation. “As an eight-year member of the Blanchard/Santa Paula Public Library board, I have served two terms as president and two terms as clerk of the Board,” also serving on the finance and physical plant committees.
Muller said, “This board has been active in volunteering at the library,” and she has worked with them on setup and take down of Friends book sales, and days devoted to helping with cataloguing steps and preparing books for circulation. “I have over 30 years of library work experience in jobs and volunteering at the schools, county, Veterans Home, and Blanchard... it has been a learning experience working on the board,” a process Mueller said she would like to continue as a BCL Trustee.
The other three candidates are voicing their desire for change.
Coughlin, a Santa Paula resident since 1987, has a BA from Thomas Aquinas College in Liberal Arts and did post graduate work at Loyola University. A volunteer and leader in activities ranging from children’s performances at nursing homes and 4-H to Little League and Boy Scout and church programs, Coughlin said, as “a former grade school teacher turned home-school mother of nine, I have always had a strong love for books and reading” and libraries, many which she has explored across the nation.
“Our own Santa Paula Library is unique, having such personal character and warmth; and my regard for it has strengthened greatly over the years,” but, she noted, “I would love to see it grow in popularity, beauty, comfort, resources, and financial stability.” As a BCL Trustee Coughlin said she would utilize “staff, volunteers, and Friends to find what could be done to help them perform their tasks most effectively.”
She believes “Barriers need to be removed and required paperwork drawn up or updated so we can qualify for available grants” for needed improvements. Coughlin said the library computer system must “be modernized, the method of processing books needs to be streamlined... and the employees need to have obstacles cleared and tools provided to aid them in their many endeavors and enrichment programs.”
The community, she added, “has so many talented individuals who have a strong love for our library that, given the proper groundwork, we should be able to supply all it needs to thrive for a long time to come.”
Sorensen, a Santa Paula native, said her diverse background in banking finance/lending as well 15 years as a purchasing specialist/public procurement with Ventura County Community College District would benefit BCL through her familiarity with government and other codes, competitive bidding, research, and contract negotiations. She specializes in the procurement of cable management, infrastructure and furniture among others.
“I have always had a connection to the library,” and Sorenson said in recent months she was recruited to a newly formed BCL Committee “to assist with ideas to present to the board, ways to improve the library.” It soon became apparent the “Library was in need of so many things it is hard to know where to start.”
From restrooms and aging sewer lines to “a heavy chain” used to lock the front door at night and “staff in the back of library working in deplorable conditions,” Sorenson said much must be done. Library policy is “outdated; processes and technology are way behind the times and in great need of updating.”
In spite of the challenges, staff “does an amazing job of serving the public, the children’s and teen programs are very successful” and must continue. The library and its resources are in constant use, and Sorenson sees “great opportunities for growth by way of grant funding and community involvement.”
Her goals include fiscal responsibility and accountability, the creation and implementation of a Strategic Plan, and addressing “the long list of building maintenance issues.”
Spink, a city native, also serves the Library Committee. A retired educator who taught for 35 years at Isbell Middle School, Spink has a BA from UCSB and a MA in Reading Development from CLU. “The library has always been an important part of my life” that, Spink said, “nurtured my lifelong passion for reading,” and as a teacher became a valued resource for her students.
Spink said she and others became involved “when we recognized our library is not moving forward. There are many facets to this problem,” including declining physical facilities and outdated technology. Funding and grant procurement is not only “sorely lacking,” but, Spink said, “inadequate policies and procedures make it all but impossible to qualify for major funding.... It is imperative that we address these issues in order to continue support for our current programs and hopefully offer new ones.”
Spink believes BCL “has the potential of becoming the critical resource for enrichment in our community. I envision it as a gathering place offering an environment for lifelong learning that serves all members of the community.”
As a trustee Spink said she would ensure fiscal stability, support all current BCL programs, create community awareness of the multitude of services provided by the library and staff, and provide appropriate training for their use.
She also would initiate new educational and informational programs and strive to “upgrade existing technology and seek funding opportunities to provide additional services for library patrons... and we must collaborate with community groups, businesses and the general public on ways to strengthen the library in the areas of funding and community outreach.”
There are some family ties between several BCL candidates and library staff: Ashby’s daughter is married to Robles’ son (they share grandchildren), and Sorenson’s mother is employed at the library. If elected, Ashby and Sorenson would be expected to recuse themselves from votes that could constitute or have the appearance of a conflict of interest.