Member Spotlight - Eric Edwards

March 7, 2022

This week's member spotlight is on Eric Edwards. Eric served as president of the Illinois Association of College & Research Libraries Forum (IACRL). We asked Eric to tell us a little bit about himself and to answer a few professional and amusing questions. Continue reading to find out more about Eric.

A little background on Eric

​Eric Edwards is the Interlibrary Loan Librarian at the Illinois State Library, where he has worked since 2015. Before that, he was Public Services Librarian at Benedictine University's Springfield campus from 2008 to 2015. He holds an MSLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, from which he also earned a BA in Political Science.

How did you get into libraries?

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a teacher, but I wasn't sure if the traditional classroom setting would be the right fit. Also, I have always enjoyed doing research, whether for school or on my own. Being a librarian is the ideal combination of these two interests.

Best advice you've received since starting your career in libraries?

I actually received this advice when I was still in library school, but it's remained relevant throughout my career. My advisor recommended that I take the broadest possible range of courses within my interests, since the field is so multi-faceted and requires being knowledgeable in a number of different areas. And, related to that, the site supervisor for my practicum emphasized that one should never stop learning about the latest news and trends in librarianship, as the field is constantly in flux, especially technologically.​

Any advice to newcomers working in libraries?

​Pursue your interests as much as your job allows, but also be open to learning new things and taking on responsibilities that might not fall under your primary job duties. That's the best way to keep abreast of changes in the field, while also helping your library and the broader institution fulfill their goals.

When and why did you become a member of ILA?

I've been a member of ILA for about a decade now. I attended my first IACRL (Illinois Association of College & Research Libraries) Forum conference in 2010. Becoming active in ILA was a way to expand my horizons beyond just academic librarianship.

How has being a member of ILA helped you professionally?

It's forced me to step outside of my comfort zone, not just in learning about areas of librarianship with which I was not previously familiar, but also in taking on new projects and initiatives. For instance, giving a virtual session at the 2020 conference was the first time I had presented online during a library-related event. Also, the organization has given me plenty of opportunities to learn from colleagues throughout the state, and I would point to the Elevate Illinois Libraries Leadership Program as a prime example.

What is your proudest professional achievement to date?

It's been having the opportunity to lead statewide organizations. I was an IACRL officer from 2016 to 2020, including serving as President from 2018 to 2019, and I also recently became President-Elect of the Health Science Librarians of Illinois. That your colleagues across the state hold you in enough regard to entrust you with these responsibilities is an honor, and leading a broad-based organization creates additional opportunities for growth and experimentation in the field of librarianship.

Hardcover, paperback, e-reader, audiobook or all?

I enjoy all except for audiobooks, which I have never tried. Obviously, e-books are convenient, especially for taking on trips. ​But there is still something about flipping through the pages of a print book that resonates. Plus, there is the added benefit of being able to donate them to book sales once you are done with them. 

Favorite author?

For fiction, it's Tom Egeland, whom I would describe as "the Norwegian Dan Brown" (or, more accurately, Dan Brown is "the American Tom Egeland"). I have had a number of favorite non-fiction authors over the years, but, based on my current interests in human evolution and prehistory, it would have to be Dr. Alice Roberts. She is a British anthropologist and anatomist who does an excellent job of explaining complicated scientific and archaeological concepts in layperson's terms, both in her books and on television.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what five books would you bring with you to pass the time until being rescued?

Well, I would want to have a survival guide of some type, so that I would last long enough to be rescued. Also, it would be good to have a copy of William Golding's classic Lord of the Flies, as a reminder of what not to do on a desert island if other people show up. Beyond those two essentials, I would want one book each by my favorite authors--Tom Egeland's The Guardians of the Covenant and Dr. Alice Roberts's The Incredible Human Journey. Finally, I would throw in The Fifty-Year Mission, the two-volume oral history of the Star Trek franchise (see my response to the final question).​

Cat or Dog?

Although I do not currently own any pets, I have had both cats and dogs over the years, but not at the same time. If I had to choose one, I would say dogs--even though it is more challenging to care for them, they seem to have greater personality and spiritedness, especially around people.​

Favorite film, podcast, or television show?

Since I was a kid, I have always enjoyed watching the different Star Trek series, but especially The Next Generation. It's fascinating, but also a bit sobering, to see humans several centuries into the future dealing with the same types of problems we face now, but on a galactic, instead of a global, level. Also, I think the exploration part of the show is a strong reflection of the librarian mindset--we are "explorers" in the field of information, always seeking out new sources of knowledge.​

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