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Umair A. Qadeer: Niles-Maine District Library Candidate Questionnaire

(From left) Niles-Maine District Library trustee candidates; Umair Qadeer, Robert Boletto, Jason trunco and Becky Keane. (Committee to Save Niles-Maine District Library PAC photo submitted)

Age: 46

How long have you lived in the Niles-Maine District Library district? 2.5 years

What is your occupation? Intellectual Property Attorney

Education? A.B. in Chemistry from Harvard University, M.S. in Chemistry from the University of Chicago, J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School

What is the most recent book you read or are reading? “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking

Why do you want to serve on the library board? A public library is a public good that must be protected for all of the residents it serves. As such, a public library should be open and accessible to all residents, and all should feel welcome. I am interested in continuing to serve on the Niles-Maine District Library Board of Trustees to help ensure that the library serves the needs of all residents of the district, from young children to seniors and all in between. To do this, the library must be adequately funded and properly staffed, and I believe that I can help the library accomplish these goals by continuing to serve as a trustee.

What are your goals for the library? I want to ensure that the library is properly funded and adequately staffed, and that those staff members are among the best at what they do. This entails finalizing a fair contract with the union that is representing library staff, such that both existing staff and potential new hires know that they will be properly compensated for their work. I also want to see more programming so as to address the needs of the entire library community.

What role should a public library play in the community? A public library should be a resource that has something to offer to everyone in the community it serves. Thus there should both be diverse programming and resources and a variety of media through which these programs and resources can be accessed. This includes a combination of printed and audiovisual materials and online resources that are accessible to all. A library should be an institutional focal point for the residents it serves, and it should offer residents services that they may not be able to access individually. Thus, a public library should have adequate computer and Internet resources, welcoming spaces, and access to public services that may otherwise be more cumbersome to obtain such as passport services, etc.

In reference to the library’s budget, what (if any) areas are underfunded, and what areas (if any) require funding cuts? By how much? Both staff compensation and building maintenance have been severely impacted by the budget cuts. Maintenance requires not only short-term fixes, such as bathroom cleaning services, but also long-term planning that prevents the necessity of repeat fixes. Such long-term planning includes repair or replacement of the library roof. I am not aware of any areas requiring funding cuts other than legal expenditures on matters that should not require inquiries to outside counsel.

What areas of library programming or services should be (if any) should be increased or decreased? One important area that has seen a decline is children’s programming. For example, story time at the library has often had to be canceled due to staff shortages. The Teen Underground, passport services, and adult services have also been impacted by staff shortages and have been forced to make cutbacks. These areas need to be restored to their pre-2021 capacity and functionality. I am not aware of any programming that needs to be decreased.

If you had complete control, what would you like to see the library look like in 5 years? The Niles-Maine District Library was a nationally recognized library in its pre-2021 iteration. I would like to see the library maintain that lofty status. To do so will require an adequately staffed and fully funded library.

How should the library approach curating and managing its collection? Librarians should be solely responsible for curating and managing the library’s collection. While the public should be able to provide input, the ultimate decisions on materials should be made by librarians, as they are the ones with specific expertise in this area.

How should the library respond to objections to specific works in the library’s collection? The library should accept and carefully consider any objections to specific works in its collection. Decisions regarding specific objections should be made by librarians. It is not the role of a trustee to opine on the place of specific work within the library’s collection, except in the trustee’s capacity as a resident. Thus, such issues should not be addressed in library board meetings.

The population served by the Niles-Maine District Library district is one of the most diverse, in terms of ethnicity, languages spoken in the home, and number of people board in other countries, outside of the city of Chicago. How should the library serve this population? The library should continue to maintain a robust foreign language collection and should consider foreign language programming where it is likely to be used. In addition, active and passive outreach to residents of various ethnicities is desirable, such as via displays related to various cultural and religious celebrations.

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