Member Spotlight - Joe Filapek

June 27, 2022

This week's member spotlight is on Joe Filapek. Joe is the treasurer of ILA and the board liaison to the ILA Library Trustee Forum. We asked Joe to tell us a little bit about himself and answer a few professional and amusing questions. Continue reading to find out more about Joe. 

A little background on Joe

I currently work for Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) as Director of Continuing Education and Consulting. I also proudly serve as President of the Aurora Public Library District Board and as treasurer of the Illinois Library Association Executive Board. Prior to joining RAILS in 2013, I worked in varying capacities for the Warrenville Public Library and Naperville Public Library including Circulation Manager and Head of Adult Services.  In my free time you’ll find me driving my kids to whatever thing they have on a given day. 

How did you get your start in libraries?

My earliest memories involve those regular visits with my mother to the Appleton Public Library in Wisconsin. I spent hours in their “Reading Train” with all the classics of children’s literature, as well as helping to pick out the next painting from their circulating art collection. My affinity for libraries never wavered over the years. So in 2003 when I very abruptly quit the PHD psychology program where I was enrolled and needed a part-time job, I figured circulation clerk at Naperville Public Library seemed as good a job as any for me. And once I started to see the impact that a library has on a community, I knew I had stumbled onto my career path. 

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

Always remember for whom the library exists – our community.  When we get wrapped up in the daily operations of the library, we can sometimes lose sight of this. Let it always be at the forefront of our thinking and decision-making.

Any advice to newcomers working in libraries?

Try to keep a wide lens and don’t limit yourself. If you’ve only ever worked in a public library or an academic library, remember there are wonderful opportunities within school libraries, specialized libraries, professional organizations, library systems, consortia, library vendors, and more! Talented and committed people are needed in all these places, so keep your options open.

When and why did you become a member of ILA?

Hold on, I’m going to sign-in to the ILA website and hope that it tells me. . . .. . . .look at that it does, 2006! At the time I joined because I was encouraged to sign-up for an ILA committee, which I did when I joined the Intellectual Freedom Committee. I got to listen to a lot of very smart library professionals during those committee meetings, and began to do the networking that is such a benefit to belonging to an association like ILA.

How has being a member of ILA helped you professionally?

Building relationships. I am privileged to call many people in the Illinois library community my friends and colleagues, and ILA has been a big reason for this. 

What is your proudest professional achievement to date?

When I started at RAILS in 2013, there was not a consulting and continuing education program. Building this into a core system service that provides a channel for education and connecting those in the library community is a source of pride.

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

Hardcover. . . .and I’m surprisingly rigid about this one!

Favorite author?

W.G. Sebald – I never want to re-read a book because there are so many on my list yet to discover. Sebald is the one author where I’ll make an exception to this rule.

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

I read slow and have no survival skills, so I’m pretty sure I’d only make it through about 1/3 of one book before becoming food for the vultures. But in the interest of playing along:

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon
  • PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives by Frank Warren

Cat or Dog?

Dog. . . please don’t tell my cat Brody if you see him!

Favorite film, podcast, or television show?

The Daily from NY Times

One person you would like to meet, dead or alive why?

Probably one of the great composers like Bach or Mozart.  I’m usually listening to classical music while I work, and would love to hear one of the masters talk about their craft.

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