Photo by Dermot Connolly
Kathy Szott, business and personnel manager at Oak Lawn Public Library, speaks at a special Board of Trustees meeting last Thursday after being named interim library director.
By Dermot Connolly
The Oak Lawn Public Library Board of Trustees appointed longtime business manager Kathy Szott as interim director at a special meeting last Thursday.
Szott replaces Jim Deiters, who recently submitted his resignation, which went into effect almost immediately. Reportedly, he had differences of opinion with the board of trustees and his resignation was a mutual decision.
Board President Sue Whisson said after the meeting that a search would be conducted to find a permanent replacement. But the immediate task will be managing the budget, which had to be revised at the same meeting Szott was appointed due to the costs of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic at the library, which only recently reopened.
Szott knows the ins and outs of the library at 9427 S. Raymond Ave. very well, having been the business manager for more than 32 years. She has actually been involved in the library longer than that.
“ I have been with the library for more than 38 years total,” she said this week. “I got my first job as a library page, the lowest level position, within a month of turning 16. I worked my way through college here and then left the library to follow my career downtown upon graduation. To my surprise, I came across a job ad for a newly created business manager position at the library about four years later and was very pleased to come back to this wonderful establishment.”
Szott said the Board of Trustees requested a budget revision several months ago “to address the undeniable change in our 2020 expected revenue and expenses resulting from the pandemic.”
The library lost an estimated $90,000 in revenue as a result of the pandemic. At the meeting last Thursday, Szott reviewed the revenue streams that are experiencing reductions, which include fines and interest, as well as income from the coffee shop, computer center and meeting room rentals. While the library opened on July 13 for people to come inside to choose books or DVDs, meeting rooms are still not open and visitors cannot lounge in the library.
“ Besides lost revenue, the library, like all other businesses, is faced with unexpected/unbudgeted expenses for personal protective equipment and additional cleaning supplies,” said Szott.
So, in response to the board’s request, the library’s budget was revised to adjust the reduced revenues and reallocate budgeted expense lines to address the increased COVID-related expenses, she explained.
William Beaulieu, a 36-year-Oak Lawn resident, voiced his support for the library and staff at the special board meeting.
“ I know the library has financial issues. That is obvious in these times. But I want to thank the staff for the work they do and stress the important function the library itself plays in Oak Lawn,” said Beaulieu.
He noted that his children were home-schooled and used it all the time.
“ Everyone I know knows this library is the best in the area.”