Farmington city council members on Monday appointed two new Farmington Community Library trustees, after one official said he was reluctant to appoint anyone.
Megan Stryd and Michele Kelly were selected from among five applicants who were interviewed during an August 6 special meeting. Stryd is a homeschooling mom; Kelly is Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Schoolcraft College.
Mayor Sara Bowman asked each council member to present their top two candidates, with the hope of coming to a consensus. Citing controversy on the library board, Mayor Pro Tem Joe LaRussa said he was hesitant to put any volunteer into a board position.
“That really gives me some pause as to how dire the circumstances are,” he said, urging his colleagues to wait and see how things “shake out”. “It’s quite a bit of a challenge for me to support any of the candidates.”
Education, board backgrounds
LaRussa put Stryd’s name forward, saying that her homeschooling experience “is very different and would add diversity to the board in terms of perspective.” She would also be an asset, he said, as more students are learning at home.
“In the circumstances we’re in now, there’s a segment that would use library more heavily,” he said. “This would give the library board a resource from the City of Farmington that would advance the library and its suite of services.”
Council member Steven Schneemann also mentioned Stryd’s educational background and her service on other boards. He also supported Kelly because of her experience on larger boards of directors, including the Michigan Philharmonic and the Macomb County Art Authority, formed when voters approved the 2012 Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) millage.
“They both understand what it means to be in a group like that and work together with differing opinions and come to a resolution to bring to the executive branch, so to speak,” he said. “I think it’s important that the people we are appointing to the board understand what it is to be on a board.”
Council member Maria Taylor supported Stryd and Anna Pelepchuk, who is head of the circulation department at Bloomfield Township Public Library. She said two of the candidates hesitated when asked whether they would stick out their full terms even if board service became difficult for them.
“We don’t want to be in a situation…down the road where a library board member would resign,” she said. “Two candidates expressed reluctance to commit, and that was one of the factors I used to decide.”
After the first round of discussion, Bowman tallied up a three-way tie. Council member David Delind, who initially supported Pelepchuk and Kelly, broke the tie by indicating her could also support Stryd.
During her interview, Stryd said she wants to maintain library services and make sure they’re available to everyone in the community. The biggest concern she has heard with the library board’s controversial COVID-19 furlough is that “it happened at the last minute.”
“Who knows what I would have done as a board member? I don’t stand here in judgment of them,” she said. “I think the step forward is trying to repair some of those relationships so (librarians) feel secure in their jobs and that things won’t change at the last minute.”
As she homeschooled her children, Stryd said, the library was very important to her. She said her appreciation for the diversity of books and programs at the Farmington library sparked her interest in serving on the board.
“I want to make sure those things continue to happen,” she said.
‘Library of the future’
Kelly said one of her strengths is “working with people who have a lot of power.” As someone new to Farmington, she said she didn’t know any of the current library board members.
“I have a good skill set toward leading in interpersonal relationships,” she added.
Motivated to get involved in the community, Kelly said she applied for the seat well before the pandemic and resignation of a previous library director. She and her husband, who works for Rotary International, have two children in elementary school.
“The library is an important place for me and always has been,” she said.
Kelly would like to see website improvements and suggested the Friends of the Library could be “a very powerful tool to access the community in ways that can be really creative.” She also supports giving librarians space to create programs that attract new audiences.
“My motivation is how I can be an active participant in moving into a library of the future for Farmington,” she said. “But it’s a little scary.”
Stryd’s term will expire on June 30, 2023; Kelly will serve through June 30, 2022.
The Farmington Community Library Board of Trustees has eight seats. Four trustees each are appointed by Farmington and Farmington Hills city councils. One Farmington Hills seat remains vacant.