Meet the new ILA Executive Director: Diane FooteMarch 12, 2018
IACRL: Congratulations on your new role as the ILA Executive Director! For those who may not be familiar, could you share a little about what the Executive Director does?
Diane Foote: Thank you! I'm happy to provide some insight into the role of the Executive Director. First and foremost, the Executive Director is responsible for the day-to-day operations and the business functions of the association. That means budget oversight, staff supervision and development, and generally making sure the lights stay on and the wheels keep turning, with major roles played by our two staff members, a Deputy Director who is in charge of conferences and continuing education and speaks for me at meetings in my absence; and a Member Services Manager, whose current role reaches way beyond that fairly narrow description. The Executive Director also marshals and shepherds the work of member volunteers and staff to ensure we are implementing projects and priorities identified by the Executive Board. Here at ILA, the Executive Director is our main voice in advocating about federal legislative issues and leading the advocacy initiatives of the association in partnership with our legislative consultant, who is our main voice in advocating about state legislative issues. We do not do any of this in a vacuum, however! Our Executive Board members, committee chairs and members, provide both leadership and guidance to me and also contribute an incredible amount of time, professional expertise, and sharp thinking to all our efforts.
IACRL: How did you initially decide to pursue librarianship?
DF: My background is in children's book publishing; I was a marketing director for an independent publisher of children's books only for ten years, before my family moved to Chicago for the sake of my husband's job. I had an opportunity to rethink my long-term goals, which I consider a great gift! I thought about pursuing marketing further by earning an MBA, or remaining in a field related to children's literature by earning an MLIS. The librarians I met and with whom I'd worked in children's publishing were some of the smartest, most dedicated, and frankly, most fun people I'd ever met, and at the end of the day I decided I wanted to be like them when I grew up! I never did become a children's librarian, though; with my marketing and management background my first job out of library school was as Executive Director of the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of ALA.
IACRL: Could you speak a little to your vision for the future of ILA?
DF: Leading ILA into the future is a remarkable opportunity! The association already functions on a high level, with a healthy budget, knowledgeable and dedicated member leadership, and a strong (if small) staff. ILA is ready to take off into the future with an increased focus on all types of inclusion, and our Executive Board is about to embark upon a strategic planning process to refresh our current plan. Some things won't ever change, though; we are always going to be "the voice for Illinois libraries and the millions who depend on them."
IACRL: You have a long history in both librarianship and leadership. What advice do you have for librarians who are thinking about pursuing a leadership role?
DF: Fake it 'till you make it! Seriously, many--although not all, to be sure--librarians are introverts, who may find it challenging to lead very vocally. But leading can be done by example as well; it's most important to be confident in your own abilities and knowledge. Librarians don't know, and don't know how to do, everything, but we do know how to find out, or learn how to do, anything. If you have put in the work to become informed and skilled in a particular area, and are confident in your own abilities and knowledge, but hesitant to take on a leadership role, just remember other people don't know you're feeling hesitant. Act "as if" you are not, and confidence in your own leadership will evolve. It is a skill to be learned, and practiced, like any other.
IACRL: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
DF: Is it too stereotypical to say reading and doing puzzles such as the New York Times crossword, Sudoku, and Words with Friends? I hope not, because doing those things really is how I relax. I also enjoy taking care of our family pets (one dog and seven fish), and—when the weather cooperates—bicycling and swimming.