Member Spotlight - Laura Barnes

July 11, 2022

This week's member spotlight is on Laura Barnes. Laura currently serves as a director-at-large on the ILA Executive Board and is the board liaison to the ILA Diversity Committee. She is also a member of the ILA DEI Subcommittee of the Executive Board. We asked Laura to tell us a little bit about herself and answer a few professional and amusing questions. Continue reading to find out more about Laura. 

A little background on Laura

Laura L. Barnes is the sustainability information curator for the University of Illinois’ Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) where she provides information services for ISTC’s engineers and scientists and coordinates ISTC’s strategic communications. She founded and authors the Environmental News Bits blog and has developed and delivered sustainability training specifically for librarians. She currently serves as a director-at-large on the ILA Executive Board and previously served as co-chair of the Best Practices Committee.

How did you get your start in libraries?

I've always loved books and reading. I spent a lot of time at the public library while growing up (shout out to the Decatur Public Library, the Champaign Public Library, and the Urbana Free Library). When I was an undergrad at the University of Illinois, I started working as a shelver at the Champaign Public Library and was then promoted to fill a part-time circulation clerk position. I got to know the librarians, saw the kind of work they did, and thought it looked like something I wanted to do. I left the library after I graduated and worked at a local independent bookstore for about a year, then decided to go to graduate school. I mentally flipped a coin to decide between law school and library school. I'm forever grateful that I chose libraries.

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

Join and become involved in your professional associations.

Any advice to newcomers working in libraries?

Keep an open mind. When I started library school, I thought I wanted to be a children's or young adult librarian. I took a graduate assistantship at ISTC (which had a different name then) because they offered it to me. By the time I completed my degree, I knew that I wanted to continue working in special libraries. Also, join and become involved with ILA.

When and why did you become a member of ILA?

I was an ILA member as a student, then dropped it for a while after graduation. I eventually rejoined and started going to the annual conference regularly when the State of Illinois made it nearly impossible to get out-of-state travel approved.

How has being a member of ILA helped you professionally?

As a solo librarian, it's incredibly easy to put your head down and not think about what's going on outside your organization. Being involved with ILA has shown me that although our clients/patrons and experiences may be wildly different, our missions and values are the same. I've learned a lot from my library colleagues in public, school, and academic libraries. I wouldn't have made those connections without ILA.

What is your proudest professional achievement to date?

I have two. The first is the writing and teaching I've done to help libraries become more environmentally responsible. The second is the work I've done as a member of the ILA Executive Board's DEI subcommittee. We wrote the organization's Statement of Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and continue to hold the organization accountable for ensuring that ILA continues to move DEI initiatives forward. 

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

E-reader (Nook) is my first choice but hardcover and paperback are a close second. I don't do audiobooks much.

Favorite author?

I can't choose one. Some recent favorites are SA Cosby, SJ Rozan, CS Harris, Stephen Mack Jones, Nora Roberts, Jasmine Guillory, Courtney Milan, Ben Aaronovitch, John Scalzi, and Olivia Dade.

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

  • Nora Robert's Chesapeake Bay Saga
  • John Scalzi's Old Man's War series
  • CS Harris' Sebastian St. Cyr series
  • SJ Rozan's Lydia Chin and Bill Smith series
  • Caste by Isabel Wilkerson because it's long and I've been wanting to read it but keep putting it off

Cat or Dog?

Rabbit. We've had house rabbits off and on for the past 30 years.

Favorite film, podcast, or television show?

Favorite film (if I have to pick one) is probably Spotlight. Everything about it is perfect.

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

I'd like to meet W. Kamau Bell. He's smart, savvy, and hilarious. I also think that United Shades of America has given him a unique perspective and I think he'd be fascinating to talk with.

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