Member Spotlight - Van McGary

October 3, 2022

This week's member spotlight is on Van McGary. Van is the Adult and Teen Services Assistant Manager at the Downers Grove Public Library and she is a member of the Reaching Forward Forum. We asked Van to tell us a little about herself and answer a few professional and amusing questions. Continue reading to find out more about Van. 

A little background on Van 

I am currently the Adult & Teen Services Assistant Manager at the Downers Grove Public Library. My coworkers are the best coworkers I could ask for. If any of you are reading this, please know that I appreciate you immensely and I am so thankful to be able to work with you!

In addition to working at the library, I am also currently a reviewer for both Booklist and AudioFile. I enjoy both nonfiction and fiction books, and love listening to audiobooks. My family thinks it’s weird that I read to our three dogs, but they and I love it! When I’m not working, I enjoy practicing yoga, going on walks, playing board games, and spending time with our menagerie of animals.

How did you get your start in libraries?

When I was going through a career change, I was trying to find a field where I could connect with people and be of service. I realized how much I loved libraries during one of our many family visits to our local library. After applying three separate times, I got my start in the Facilities Department there. Shortly after, I also started working in Circulation Services at another library.

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

Be open and receptive to feedback. When we are willing to accept not just praise but also criticism with grace, we allow ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow. Listen and avoid becoming defensive, which can impede collaboration, communication, growth, and more.

Any advice to newcomers working in libraries?

You can be a leader at any level in an organization. You matter; your voice matters. You bring valuable experience, personality, and perspective.

Also, build a support network of people you can lean on and can help foster a safe space for you, and you can in turn help provide the same.

When and why did you become a member of ILA?

Early in my library career, I was able to attend the ILA Reaching Forward conference. I enjoyed learning about the field and meeting library workers from all over. In 2017, I received the Sylvia Murphy Williams Award and was given a one-year membership to ILA. I have continued my ILA membership ever since.

How has being a member of ILA helped you professionally? 

Being a member of ILA has helped me meet and work with some amazing library workers as well as stay up to date. I’ve also been able to become more involved by serving on the Reaching Forward Forum to help give back by working on the conference that had helped me early on in my career. In addition, I recently published an article in the ILA Reporter.

What is your proudest professional achievement to date?

It would be very remiss of me not to say how incredible and humbling of an honor it was to be selected as one of Library Journal's (LJ) Movers and Shakers of 2022 along with my collaborator and friend, Cindy Khatri. I am proud of the work that we’ve been able to do for our community and beyond, but know that there is so much more that needs to be done.

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

I read some e-books, listen to a lot of e-audiobooks, and have no preference between hardcover or paperback.

Favorite author?

I definitely can’t choose one. Also, a lot of authors I’ve really enjoyed have written only one book so far, but some authors I’ll read anything by are Angie Thomas, Kelly Yang, Huda Fahmy, and Luvvie Ajayi Jones.

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

  • Colorful by Eto Mori
  • Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
  • Lovely War by Julie Berry
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  • Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

Cat or Dog?

Dogs...and bees and chickens!

Favorite film, podcast, or television show?

I can’t really choose an all-time favorite, but I’m super excited for the next season of Ted Lasso and the next installment of John Wick.

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

I’d really like to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I would love to hear his thoughts and advice on today’s civil rights issues.

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