Library board election nets unexpected community attention


Francesca Messerschmidt

Director Krystal Gulley and young adult librarian Lisa Johnson work at the main desk on keeping things running smoothly at the library.

Francesca Messerschmidt, Staff Writer

As local election time draws closer, an unexpected race has come to the forefront. With three spots up for grabs, the library board election has become prominent on social media.

Harrisburg will hold elections for many local positions such as school board, city council and the library board April 4. Board members Stephanie Susie, David Berry and Robert DeVillez are running for re-election under Support the Library, while residents Miranda Hust and Emily Sumner have also been campaigning for the open positions.

“Typically, (library board elections) have been unopposed. This is new to me,” board member Kelly L. Phelps said.

Board elections such as this are nonpartisan, meaning free from party bias.

While working on the board at the library is important, it is a very hands-off job, and the board typically works in the background to keep things running smoothly within the library according to current board member Denise Drue.

“There’s nothing sparkly or shiny about being on the board,” Drue said. “It’s the nuts and bolts of day to day business.”

Elections were not always tradition for the library, but once they made the switch to serving a district, voting for board became required.

“Board positions were appointed by the mayor,” Sarah “Sally” Wofford said. “Before, when we were Mitchell-Carnegie, we just served inside Harrisburg city limits. Since we’re (now) a district library, we serve alongside the school district.”

The library serving such a wide area benefits those who might not be able to access the resources of the library otherwise. 

“For someone like me, who grew up in the country, it would have been very important for me,” Drue said. “Since we are a rural area, for those people who are further out, it’s very important for them.”

One thing the entire board shares in common is their love for libraries and what they do.

“This place puts on a lot of diverse programs,” DeVillez said. “So many kids programs are going on all the time, which I think is probably one of the most vital things we do, get kids interested in reading at a young age.” 

The importance of children loving books and reading is also a shared value among all running.

“Reading is a keystone habit; our library should be promoting programs that encourage people to read,” Hust said. “Reading, and by extension learning, is the most effective way to better oneself and one’s situation in life.”

Inclusivity and reading are main goals of Hust’s campaign. She is campaigning under “Conservative Christian Mother Running for Library Board”. 

“I want the library to be an inclusive place where all are welcome, especially children,” Hust said.

Those who are running for re-election shared goals they hope to achieve to help improve the library.

“I have a few more (programming) ideas that I’d like to work with (young adult librarian) Lisa Johnson on,” Susie said. “We have to move forward.”

Moving forward is a common goal among the candidates as they campaign.

“What I’m most excited about is to make this place even better,” Berry said. 

Early voting is currently open, while the main election will take place April 4. Voters can vote at their precinct designated voting location.