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Candidates for Geneva library board debate space issues

GENEVA – Voters in the Geneva Public Library District will have a choice among six candidates vying for three four-year terms in the April 9 consolidated election.

Three are incumbents: Esther Barclay-Steel, Steven Andersson and David Creighton. Newcomers are Robert Mann, Mark Adams and Jay Moffat, who also is a candidate in the park board race.

Barclay-Steel, 51, will have served 10 years in April and currently is president.

She supported the library board’s vote to buy the Cetron property, 7 Richards St., for $2 million as a new library site. The closing still is pending during an environmental assessment.

“Without question, we need to do something about the physical side and provide for the community,” Barclay-Steel said. “The building we’re going to build will be very flexible. … Someday ... maybe all books will be electronic. But in the foreseeable future [books] are a huge part of what we do.”

Andersson, 48, has been a board member for four years and treasurer for two.

“I served in a strong capacity, sometimes being the person who questions conventional wisdom,” Andersson said. “[But] the Cetron site could prove to be a good site.”

Andersson cast the lone “no” vote when the board approved buying the Cetron property because he is not convinced the current building is inadequate – if the collection becomes more electronic than physical.

“Libraries and books are in a sea change of experience. Right now, the library is full of books and running out of room,” Andersson said. “We don’t know where this is going to go. I voted ‘no’ because it was premature. We’ll know more in five to 10 years.”

Creighton, 46, is seeking his third term, and said he offers continuity while the library faces challenges.

“I’ve got a passion for libraries, and I want to give back to the community,” Creighton said. “I have a passion for a vision of the future of the library, and I want to see us execute the long-term vision of what we want to do – build the library that Geneva deserves.”

The three incumbents noted the library board lowered its levy this year.

Moffat, 56, questioned whether electronic books existed when customers were last surveyed, and a new survey should be done.

“On the issue of space, my question is, is the issue truly a problem of space or is it an issue of the status quo that we have a space problem?” Moffat said.

Moffat said he would be interested to find how many books have been on the shelf for two to five years without being checked out because removing them would open up space in the current location.

Moffat said he was not in favor of buying the Cetron property, but voters will decide whether a library will be built.

Mann, 75, would like to serve on the board to steer the district away from completing the Cetron purchase and concentrate more on better use of existing space and expansion possibilities.

“The city of Geneva does not need to take any more property off the tax rolls,” Mann said. “One option [for more space] would be to expand into that alleyway between the library and City Hall and build a two- or three-story high-rise right there.”

Mann said the library could expand its services toward directing adult patrons about where they could take Spanish or fine arts classes. Mann said the lower-level conference room is underused.

“It should be alive with groups every night,” Mann said.

Adams, 60, said he wants to be on the library board to see it continue to serve families.

Adams also disagrees with the Cetron purchase because it would move the library from the core of Geneva’s downtown to a few blocks away. 

“Everybody I talk to says they want the library to stay where it is,” Adams said.

But Adams agrees the library is small for the population it serves. He said he wants a new survey about library services.

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