Meet Wellesley candidate for Library Trustee, Ann-Mara Lanza

The Town of Wellesley depends on the active participation of its citizens in governance of the Town. Wellesley has 11 Boards and Committees on the ballot at the Annual Town election each year in March. The 2020 election will be held on March 17.

Ann-Mara Lanza, Wellesley candidate for Library Trustee

Ann-Mara Lanza is one of two candidates running for two open positions on the Board of Library Trustees, a six-member board of local residents. Like other town board members, Trustees receive no payment for their volunteer services. Although the race is uncontested, we’re always interested in the priorities and goals of Wellesley’s elected officials.

We invited the candidates to answer a few questions about their qualifications and their priorities for the Town of Wellesley. Below are Ann-Mara Lanza’s answers. A subsequent post will include a Q & A from Board of Library Trustees candidate Ann Rappaport.

The Swellesley Report: What is your background and what qualifies you for the position?
Ann-Mara Lanza: I am honored to have been a Library Trustee in Wellesley for almost 12 years. My business background (MBA, The Wharton School) has enabled me to take a leadership role in the creation of the Library’s 5-year strategic plans and the development of the Library’s annual budgets. My husband and I have lived in Wellesley for 25 years. I believe that public libraries are the backbone of our democracy.

The Swellesley Report: Why are you running for a position as Library Trustee?
Ann-Mara Lanza: I first ran for Trustee because I was troubled that the town was unable to financially support its branch libraries. Libraries, which provide free access to information for every resident, are one of the pillars of a strong community. I fought for our full library system. Today, the branch libraries each have a unique way of serving Wellesley, and the future of the Hills Branch has been secured. This year, we will begin reintegrating the Fells Branch, which now serves as an early learning library, into our town operating budget.

I’m proud that I have had a role in safeguarding Wellesley’s library services. At the Fells, we are expanding the imagination space to the outdoors, by creating a children’s garden. At the main, we are moving forward with updating the library’s interior to meet the needs of today’s users. I am excited to continue working to ensure that Wellesley residents have access to exceptional
library services.

The Swellesley Report: What if any changes would you like to see take place at the Wellesley Free Library?
Ann-Mara Lanza: It is extremely important to residents that we complete the renovation project for the main library, which is currently in the design phase. (We anticipate that construction funds will be requested at this year’s Fall town meeting.) The main library, while beautiful, was designed and built for a different generation of residents. This was before the invention of the iPhone and the Kindle, and prior to Apple Music and widespread streaming of videos.

Today, residents turn to the Library for collaborative working spaces, English as a Second Language services, and access to online databases. We need more meeting rooms, increased technology bandwidth and, as simple as it sounds, more outlets. The underutilized media room will be transformed into a community commons area where residents can meet over a cup of coffee. The children’s room will be updated to stimulate imagination and creativity. We will add both meeting rooms and small group workspaces. This internal renovation will enable the Wellesley Free Library to meet the demands of today’s residents, as well as position the Library for the future.

The Swellesley Report: What are the most pressing needs in Wellesley as they relate to the library?
Ann-Mara Lanza: An increase in the use of technology has led to residents feeling more isolated and alone. Research confirms that residents are looking for opportunities to interact with others. The Library is a community gathering space, which brings together residents of all ages. We offer programs seven days a week. Our ongoing renovation project will reconfigure our space to make it more accessible to residents looking for both formal and informal opportunities to gather.

The Swellesley Report: When preparing the most recent budget in partnership with the Library Director, what were the biggest challenges?
Ann-Mara Lanza: Most of the library budget is dictated by factors over which we have little control. About 80% is personnel, with salaries set by union contract. In order to meet state guidelines, 13% of our budget must be allocated to materials. Additionally, the fee that we must pay to give residents access to the Minuteman Library Network is significant. With all this set, our ongoing challenge is always how to meet the expanding technology needs of patrons within the resources allotted by the town.

The escalating costs of software, service contracts, databases, and hardware outpace the usual town budget increase. This year, we have the additional challenge of an open union contract. Nevertheless, in partnership with our Library Director, have created a budget that best serves the needs of Wellesley’s residents, while remaining fiscally responsible.

The Swellesley Report: What would you like to see achieved in the long-term at the library?
Ann-Mara Lanza: The Wellesley Free Library is comprised of four “locations”: the main library, the Hills Branch, the Fells Branch, and the WFL Website. Despite concerns that the shift to digital media would doom libraries, the Wellesley Free Library’s circulation has continued to grow, year after year. By focusing our services in response to patron needs, we have maintained our Library as one of the busiest in the State. I would like to see the Wellesley Free Library continue to adapt to the evolving needs of Wellesley’s residents. Every five years, the Library creates a new strategic plan, based on input from the community and the advancements in library services. Through this planning process, we need to ensure that all four of our locations continue to add value to our community.

The Swellesley Report: Is there anything else you’d like to say that I haven’t covered?
Ann-Mara Lanza: With only about 1.5% of the town’s budget, the staff of the WFL provides amazing programs and services for over 1,200 patrons each day. We are incredibly fortunate to have such a talented and caring library staff, led by Library Director, Jamie Jurgensen.

The Swellesley Report: How can voters get in touch with you?
Ann-Mara Lanza: The best way to reach me is through email at amslanza@gmail.com. I welcome input on ways in which the Wellesley Free Library can continue to meet the needs of residents. I am particularly interested in talking to residents who would like to help us make our Fells Children’s Garden a reality.

MORE:

Table of Wellesley offices, 2020