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Interview With Columbia Library District Board Member MaryEllen Seivert
Each trustee serves on his or her own district board as well as on the regional library board, which is the governing body responsible for policy-making and fiscal oversight.
MaryEllen Sievert has spent almost a quarter of her life serving on the library board, minus two terms that her husband served in her stead. Professionally, she taught for years in the school of Information Science and Learning Technologies at MU. Though she’s formally retired, she still works part-time as a research consultant for the University of Missouri Libraries.
She grew up in Massachusetts and attended graduate school in Iowa so she could see more of the U.S. Her travels have taken her to over 40 of the 50 states. Her daughter, son-in-law and grandsons live in Columbia and are also frequent library users.
Why do you think libraries are important?
I grew up in a family that did not have the money to buy all the books I wanted to read, but I could always find interesting things to read at the public library. Today many cannot afford computers, but they can use them in the library. Programs for all different age groups are available, for free. Children can meet authors, hear music and create crafts. Adults can question candidates for public office, hear musicians, see films or find answers to questions they have. No other institution offers so much for so many in such a non-threatening atmosphere.
What made you apply to be on the library board?
Serving on the Board of Trustees gives me a way to give my time and talent to this wonderful institution. Since my professional background is in the library and information field, I feel that I can also bring some expertise.
What is the role of the district board as you see it?
The role of each district board is to ensure that people in that district get the best library services possible within the limitations of the budget and to manage funds specific to each district appropriately. I am also impressed by the way that the three individual boards (Boone, Callaway and Columbia) work so effectively as a regional board (Daniel Boone Regional Library).
What are you most proud of regarding the Columbia Library District?
Whenever I come to the Columbia Public Library I’m delighted by what I see. People are everywhere in this building and doing a variety of different things. The children’s area is so inviting, and seeing the children finding books to read and watching them on their special computers is rewarding. I am also proud of the fine staff at the library. As a patron, I have appreciated their hard work when I call with a question, and I’m constantly impressed with the programs they offer.
What makes DBRL special?
New services are constantly being tested and introduced. The library’s digital branch (www.dbrl.org), for example, has grown tremendously as more people want access to the library from their homes and offices. Our Library-To-Go lockers in Hallsville are another example of a new service which will in time most likely become a standard service.
What challenges does DBRL face in the coming year or years?
Library services and collections continue to grow, but the money coming into the library does not always grow with them, so it can be a struggle to find the most effective way to spend what monies we have without cutting services to our patrons.
Do you have a favorite memory or story about libraries?
I was sick for much of first and second grade. While sick, I continued to read everything I could get my hands on. Finally I reached the point where I had read all the books in my designated grade area. My mother had to go and talk to the librarian to get permission for me to be able to read “above” my grade level. From then on I could get books from anyplace in the children’s area regardless of the grade designation.