Alan N. Davidson
Board President Alan Davidson has served on the Princeton Public Library Board for five years. An active member of his community, Pres. Davidson is involved with the Princeton Theatre group, having served as a board member and as the group’s president. The group oversees Illinois’ largest summer theater festival.
Pres. Davidson spent 26 years in the US Navy, serving on six ships, mostly on the west coast. He spent 13 months in Vietnam with the Riverine and Naval Advisory Group. His shore duty assignments included service at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD; Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet staff in Pearl Harbor, HI; Chief of Naval Education and Training staff in Pensacola, FL; and service with the Naval Training Systems Center in Orlando, FL.
After retiring from the US Navy in 1988, Davidson worked for United Airlines in Orlando, FL, in the customer service field, after completing a Masters of Business Administration at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. He worked at numerous locations for United Airlines including Denver, CO, and Sioux Falls, SD, before retiring in 2002. He moved to Princeton in 2003 to be closer to family.
Pres. Davidson has been married for 11 years to Sharilyn Y. Schaffer Davidson and is the father of two adult children. He takes pride in his three dogs, all adopted from the Friends of Strays, a no-kill pet shelter in Princeton co-founded by his sister.
Davidson is serving a two-year term on the RAILS Board.
Why did you decide to run for the RAILS Board?
I was a member of the former Prairie Area Library System (PALS) Board who was selected to participate on the Merger Design Team and Interim Board. I considered that the new RAILS Board would need some continuity from the intense, time constrained period in which we were allowed to complete the five system merger.
What are your interests and background relating to the Illinois Library System?
My interests are to ensure that the member libraries in RAILS are made to feel that they have an important voice in the decisions that affect them. I believe that they occasionally feel that they are ignored and not listened to; that does not mean that every suggestion/recommendation from the membership will be implemented, but their input must be considered. The background I have with Illinois Library Systems is what I have gained from my time on the Princeton Public Library Board of Trustees and with the PALS Board of Trustees.
What do you envision for the library system in the future?
I consider that the library system has to be very adaptable to the changing technology and the interests of our members. I do not believe the phrase, "Well, we have always done it this way!" has any place in our library system. We have to listen to our members and the Board members and if change is required, then we must make those changes no matter how difficult they may be in order to benefit and improve RAILS.
The never ending battle of state finances will be probably the most important facet that RAILS will be facing and the amount of those funds will directly impact the services that RAILS provides. I strongly consider that libraries of all types are most important to the citizens of Illinois and that we must do all possible to ensure that our libraries continue to provide the services that the citizens want.
How do you envision the future of library systems in our state?
I think that the future of Illinois library systems will depend upon the proper funding from the state legislature. Without proper funding, services will have to be reduced. The Illinois State Library will have to develop a priority system for services, with the assistance of the two regional multitype library systems and the membership, as to what services are desired and sustainable. I don't believe that library systems can do all things for everyone. However, I do strongly believe that the future of Illinois library systems is bright and that the two multitype library systems must work in conjunction with the State Library to develop that list of priorities in order to properly serve the taxpayers of Illinois.
What is the biggest challenge facing RAILS and how can you help meet that challenge?
I consider the biggest challenges will be proper funding by the state legislature and ensuring that the RAILS membership feel that they are a vital part of RAILS.
As for the funding portion, RAILS must ensure that we are spending our funds to obtain the highest value for those funds. We must examine every avenue to ensure that we are providing the members with the best service for the least amount of tax funds. There can be no "sacred cows" in these discussions and we must investigate every opportunity to improve our services to our membership.
In conjunction with these discussions, we must involve the membership at every level to obtain their input and listen to this input. RAILS is an entirely new entity which has combined five separate library systems and each had its own methodology/culture (big city versus small city for example). The cultures in each of those systems differed from the other systems and now that we are one system, the board of directors and the executive director must carefully meld these separate cultures into one which will reflect the values and needs of RAILS' membership. We must continue to manage these culture changes to obtain the continuing support of the membership in order to ensure that RAILS remains a viable, productive, efficient, cost effective and enduring organization.
What are some of your outside interests?
I enjoy reading, exercising, traveling, sports at the college and professional level, theater, volunteering at local activities, my children and grandchildren, spending quality time with my mother, and helping my wife with her Sweeties candy shop in Princeton.
Do you have an interesting quotation to share?
"Indicisio flexibilitati clavis est," Latin for: Indecision is the key to flexibility. Seriously, we do not have the option of being indecisive, but we must make the correct decisions.