Meet the new IACRL Vice-President/President-Elect: Emily Gilbert

Illinois Association of College & Research Libraries Forum (IACRL)

September 23, 2020

Meet the new IACRL Vice-President/President-Elect: Emily Gilbert

Interviewed by Elena Carrillo, University of Illinois, Chicago

Emily Gilbert, incoming VP/Pres Elect of IACRL

In May 2020, it was announced that Emily Gilbert, Health Sciences Librarian at Rasmussen College, was elected Vice-President/President-Elect of the Illinois Library Association Executive Board. The 2020 IACRL elections took place April 1 to 30 and Emily received 52% of the vote.

We congratulate Emily and wish her the best in her service to the organization!

What do you think is the most important thing for you to accomplish in your new position both professionally and personally? 

I was very surprised and honored to have been elected Vice President/President Elect, and I’m excited for the challenge. I hope to strengthen ties between academic librarians across the state--especially right now, I think we all need each other to fall back on for support and ideas of how best to serve our communities. It’s almost a cliché to say that these are unprecedented times, but it’s true—we don’t have a guidebook on how to run libraries in a pandemic. Our professional community is an invaluable resource as we navigate this crisis.

What initiatives or opportunities would you like to promote?

During my work with the executive board, I am interested in promoting efforts to dismantle white supremacy in academic libraries. There is a lot of discussion on antiracism right now, and it is crucial that we turn that critical lens on our own libraries and see how we can better serve our entire communities.

What do you think is the biggest barrier to pushing for more equity and diversity in libraries today?

Libraries in America have always been dominated by white people, and when you aren’t experiencing oppression, you can prioritize everything else before diversity and equity. It’s heartening that a lot of white people seem to have had a reckoning with their privilege due to the civil unrest this year, and I count myself in those numbers. Awareness is an important step, but there has to be an ongoing commitment to interrogate our own policies, structures, and collections. It’s work, and it’s coming into focus at a time when many of us (understandably) feel stretched very thin, but it has to be done to ensure the best service to all of our patrons. 

In the blog post “Library Workers in Public Office” on My Library Is…, you recounted your experience running for Schaumburg Township District Library Trustee in 2019. You describe yourself as a former wallflower and said “I’m not really a joiner”, but then proceeded to talk about how you became impassioned with the idea for serving! How do you feel like you have grown since initially embarking on this part of your journey? 

I cannot say enough about the personal growth that comes from running for office. I was a pretty shy person with a lot of anxiety, so for my entire adulthood I resisted getting involved with anything. However, I had started to find my voice by the time the idea of running for trustee came to me (from an ILA session, no less). The entire process of running—from collecting signatures, to speaking at forums, to mingling at events, to canvassing—was terrifying, but it changed me. I’m much more comfortable speaking in front of large groups, and I’m more likely to stand up for things I believe in. And I have more confidence in my voice! I never would have run for this position if not for that experience. 

You said you wanted to run again in 2021. Is that still in the cards? 

I do still plan to run for trustee again next spring. It will surely be a very different experience campaigning in a pandemic, but I’m ready. I really love my public library, and I know I can do a good job as a trustee.

What do you think is in the near future for Libraries? With Rasmussen College’s Library services already being online, are you feeling the impact of the current health crisis? 

With the scramble to adjust services to the current public health situation, libraries have found a lot of opportunities for new ways to support their communities. I expect to see the continuation of some of these services even after it is safe to be in groups again. For example, curbside pickup and livestreamed programs are really great for accessibility. In the academic sector, a lot of libraries were forced online with reference and instruction even if that wasn’t a primary delivery method in the past, and I hope to see these services continue moving forward.

Even though our library at Rasmussen was already online, I am definitely feeling the impact of COVID-19 in my work as I’m having to do more with less. It’s been pretty stressful, but I’m sure much more so for my peers dealing with reopening and sharing physical space with others right now.

You studied abroad in France and went on to receive a BA in French from Carthage College. What’s your best memory of studying abroad? 

My college roommate studied in Spain at the same time I was in France, and she came to visit me on her spring break, and we got to spend a week together in Paris. We’re still good friends, and I still complain about how she insisted on taking the stairs up the Eiffel Tower instead of the elevator. 

Do you find you still have opportunities to speak French?

I don’t get many opportunities to speak French these days, but I loved studying it.

Were you even thinking about becoming a librarian at that time?

 I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career at the time; I stumbled into the idea of an MLIS about a year after I graduated and realized it was perfect for me. 

Quilled Lilacs by Emily Gilbert

And what led you to the Health Sciences track?

Health Sciences was a complete fluke—it was the position that was open at Rasmussen when I started here five years ago, and I have absolutely no healthcare experience, but I really enjoy working with the allied health programs and I’ve learned a lot!

And of course, we have to ask something completely random.  Tell us what you like to do in your downtime! Do you have an obscure hobby? 

I got into paper quilling for a little bit before becoming a parent, but I haven’t had much time to do it while my daughter is small—hopefully I can get back into it soon!

What was the last book you read? 

The last book I read was Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, which was a blast and combined my genre loves of YA and mystery.

iREAD Summer Reading Programs

Since 1981, iREAD provides high quality, low-cost resources and products that enable local library staff to motivate children, young adults, and adults to read.

Visit the iREAD website »