Interview With Columbia Library District Board Secretary Jim Jones
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.
Not only is Jim Jones an active library advocate and avid library user, he’s even married to a librarian. He says, “Since I’m married to a librarian at the Health Sciences Library at MU, I get to hear about library activity in two different settings.” When not tending to library business, Jim works as a realtor at Prudential Vision Properties.
Why do you think libraries are important?
The things that most people don’t think of as a library function include things like having a place to go to cool off in the summer, providing kids a safe place to go after school to do homework and being a place to go for help with income taxes. Libraries are as much a social center for communities as they are warehouses of information.
What is the role of the district board as you see it?
It is the same for both the individual library boards and for the district board, and that is to be both a promoter for change and to resist changes that may not be in the library’s best interest. It is also very important that each trustee looks at things through the filter of their work and life experiences.
What are you most proud of regarding the district board?
It always amazes me that the 19 people on the board, who have such varied backgrounds and ideas, can work together so well to make DBRL continue to grow.
What makes DBRL special?
There is a synergy here that brings together the work that staff does, using input from the trustees and the patrons, that makes it all work. It just keeps getting better.
What challenges does DBRL face in the coming year or years?
A long-term challenge for this, and probably for all, libraries is finding ways to let our users know what we can do for them, how we are spending their tax dollars and showing them that we are here to be responsive to their needs. I think that all libraries are at a critical moment when they have to figure out how to reinvent themselves to serve in this electronic information age. If libraries don’t provide this service in the way their patrons want and need, it will severely detract from what libraries can achieve for the community.
Do you have a favorite memory or story about libraries from your youth?
Growing up we always lived in the country near small towns that did not have libraries. The first exposure I had to any kind of library was when I started school, and school libraries in the 50s were pretty limited in what they had to offer. It wasn’t until I went away to school that I saw a library that had books that weren’t donated novels or cast-off textbooks.