ANN ARBOR – Economist and grandmother Dr. Sherrie Kossoudji is ready to help nurture the Ann Arbor District Library as a Board of Trustees member.
The longtime Tree Town resident is running for one of the open board member seating on November’s ballot.
She is an Associate Professor Emerita at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Economics.
Kossoudji aims to foster growth, sustainability and accessibility within the library system while anticipating challenges the AADL may face.
The following interview was conducted via email.
As an Ann Arborite, what does the AADL mean to you?
The Ann Arbor District Library has been a presence in my life from my first days as a graduate student when I used library reading to destress from academic work to my time as a working mom who regularly took my kids to the old Westgate and downtown branches to today when I read electronic books with my grandkids (and check out electronic books for myself because I can adjust the font size to accommodate aging eyes).
The Ann Arbor library is a great resource for our community and nourishes us in so many ways. While the library has been ever present it has not been unchanging and further and substantive changes may be required to keep AADL a great source of enjoyment and learning for all the district’s community members.
What about your background and experience do you think will most help you tackle future challenges that the AADL and its Board may face?
I’m an economist and I understand how to grapple with decisions about the competing use of resources. I have been on many committees and boards and I have experienced the challenges when there is a conflict of opinion among members. I’m a longtime Ann Arbor resident and I have seen the ways this area has changed over time and can anticipate changes to come. I’m a mom and now a yia-yia and I have seen the ways a library can promote a child’s development. I have strong convictions about the importance of accessibility and sustainability in the library’s future growth.
I am a lifelong library user and ardent library supporter. I think about AADL as a regular user of its resources. I see its strengths and weaknesses from a user’s perspective. We are fortunate to have a great district library and want to continue to have one in the future. Each trustee must be able to consider the future needs of the library and the entire district as they help make decisions that affect all of us. Today’s AADL is not the same as the library I used as a child and tomorrow’s AADL will not be the same as it is today. Each voice on the committee provides a different and important perspective about which decisions are the best for the future library. I will provide service to the library and not use library service as a springboard to another office.
Staying relevant in a fast-paced world is often seen as a challenge for libraries. What is something that you would want to help the library do in order to remain valuable and relevant to all Ann Arborites?
A library is the bedrock on which a community rests and should provide opportunities to every single community member. It is also an institution that models the values of our community. These two features mean that the library must figure out how to equitably serve every member of our community: our youth, our elderly, our economically constrained, our members who are mobility constrained, our moms and dads, our library staff members, and everyone else.
I hope to help foster our library’s growth as a community space, learning space, and safe space for everyone in the district. Those spaces may not be physical. I prioritize sustainability and accessibility for all, which often depends on a reallocation of resources. Our already great library must promote a balance of physical and digital resources to promote sustainability, to help all patrons achieve their goals when using the library, to engage with youthful community members who have grown up in the digital world, to link with other community institutions, and to bring in those who have not been benefiting from AADL’s resources. Our library staff members deserve the right to do their jobs in a supportive and fair work environment.
What would you like to see more of at the library?
How will the library compete with individualized use of the web? The AADL must give patrons a better alternative. I envision a future where physical and online resources, activities, and events take equal precedence and are designed to work together for a common library experience. If the library is the best curator of the overwhelming flow of the world’s information more district residents will choose the library as their source of learning and enjoyment. There has been significant unevenness in the development of and access to electronic resources and we must be cognizant of potential biases in the type, approach, and formatting of resources to be used by different members of the community. As a community resource, the library is responsible for ensuring that every single eligible person has access and feels welcome in all kinds of interactions.
AADL will become a more complex institution in the future. It must:
1. Pursue acquisitions so that experiences are equally valuable whether one uses physical, electronic, or both resources.
2. Attend to newly emerging digital disparities and work to mitigate areas of unequal access.
3. Prepare for the ways that electronic resources create access, bias, learning, and sustainability advantages and disadvantages for different age groups and identities.
4. Identify the unique features of physical and online environments and maximize their benefits to the community.
5. Consider how to best interact with young patrons who have grown up in a digital world.
6. Recognize digital resource use changes the way we participate in the community and design activities and events that reinforce community development.
Are there any changes that you would make to the library system? If so, how would you help facilitate those changes?
Every community is grappling with the weakening of bonds partly brought about by a diminished agreement that diverse social engagement is fundamental to a healthy society and a reluctance to engage in an exchange of ideas across color, background, identity, age, or beliefs. Book banning is a symptom of this problem. AADL serves a wide district that can struggle with inclusion and exclusion and the meaning of membership.
If the AADL is unable to bring together the many strands of district residents’ distinctive needs it too could become weakened. Residents may be reluctant to financially support the AADL because they don’t personally use it. Some may assert that the AADL doesn’t represent people like them. Individualized online interactions may drive a decline in library use as more people choose self-access over library patronage.
Our library is already well-positioned to tackle these kinds of problems. As a trustee, I will target community engagement as a principal priority. We can build on the exceptional strengths of the library and its community outreach to foster widespread community involvement in library-sponsored activities. To do this, we must try to reconcile the goals of different users and encourage local engagement and interaction to promote our common experiences and challenge our differences.