Member Spotlight - Alea Perez, Best Practices Committee Chair

Best Practices Committee

November 30, 2022

This week's member spotlight is on Alea Perez. Alea is the Young Adult Services Manager at the Forest Park Public Library. She also serves as the chair of the ILA Best Practices Committee. We asked Alea to tell us a little about herself and answer a few professional and amusing questions. Continue reading to find out more about Alea. 

A little background on Alea

I’ve lived in IL for 10.5 years, originally hailing from AZ, and I moved here in large part because of a movie I saw when I was 3 or 4 that was set in Chicago; it really sold the place. (No, not Ferris Bueller.) The vast majority of my work in libraries has been with children and teens, because I appreciate their often unfiltered takes on life and the world around them, even if those takes can sting a little at times. I’m also a big proponent of supporting middle managers, specifically the work of youth services managers in public library settings, as well as graphic novels (yes, they count as real reading and yes, they’re for everyone).

When I’m not working, I love hanging out with my spouse and our dog, taking a good bike ride, finding any excuse I can to do a donut crawl downtown, and trying to support my favorite social media artists by turning my house into an art museum.

How did you get your start in libraries?

I grew up in them! My mom started working as a Youth Services library staffer in my hometown library in Arizona when I was in elementary school, so I was just as often as not hanging around, helping to prep for programs or catching up on my favorite stories. (I also snuck under her desk every so often for a quick nap as a teen.)

When it came time, as an adult, to decide what I wanted to do for a living, I did not choose “Become a librarian!” but a few years after undergrad and doing other work, the profession had something to say about that. My first library job was at the very library where my mom got her start.

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

It would have to be a tie between “Set the pace [at the start of a job] that you wish to keep,” because we often come in trying to do everything as quickly as we can and set unreasonable expectations for ourselves and others about what we can realistically keep doing over time without causing our own burnout, and “Set and respect your boundaries.” In this profession, we want to be everything to everyone and we just don’t have the time, energy, or other resources to do that, nor should we want to. Instead, we should aim to do what we can, when and how we can, and advocate for more resources (staff, money, etc.) if we want, and deem it necessary, to do more.

Any advice to newcomers working in libraries?

Besides the above advice given to me? Don’t let the gatekeepers and the old guard stop you from being part of the good and necessary change our field desperately needs.

When and why did you become a member of ILA?

You’re really going to make me dig through my member profile. Looks like…2013, the year after I moved here. It was a no-brainer. IL library staff are among the best in the nation, so why not do what I can to learn from them outside of my place of employment? The variety of libraries and communities they represent means I’m always learning something new from my peers.

How has being a member of ILA helped you professionally? 

Having the opportunity to participate in the various committees, form relationships, and use my voice to encourage the change I want to see in the profession, both in IL and beyond, has given me great insights into what I am passionate about and willing to fight for, as well as what is not in my best interests to continue or pursue.

What is your proudest professional achievement to date?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to honestly say my career has made me proud in so many ways, but the thing that makes me proudest? Every time I hear from a former staff member of mine about the successes they’re having, the ways in which they’re critically evaluating their position and privileges, and attempting to continue the work we did together in their new role.

Interviewing R.L. Stine at ALA Annual a few years ago was pretty alright, too.

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

Paperback is best, but I’ll also use hardcovers and ebooks. Despite a strong desire to be able to, I just can’t process audiobooks for the life of me.

Favorite author?

The last time I let an author rise to the ranks of “favorite,” he turned out to be a raging bigot, so I try to no longer think of authors in that way. However, some authors I’ve really enjoyed include Octavia Butler, Jane Austen, Jason Reynolds, Cherie Dimaline, Mariko Tamaki, Brian K. Vaughan, and Grace Ellis. Aiden Thomas is also cementing themself as someone who reliably writes good stories.

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

Let’s be honest; if I’m stuck on a deserted island, I’m probably going to need some books with a lighthearted and/or humorous touch, even if it has more serious moments.

  • Giant Days: Not On the Test Edition Vol. 1 by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, and Max Sarin

  • Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy

  • Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

  • Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson

  • I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi

Cat or Dog?

Dogs. They’re pretty darn wag-tastic and they let other animals be honorary dogs, e.g. sky puppies (bats), water puppies (otters). Really just missing a fire puppy to complete the elements.

Favorite film, podcast, or television show?

So dependent on my mood, but currently, Reservation Dogs is top tier; Willie Jack and Spirit are phenoms. Abbott Elementary is saying some incredible things while being great comedically. Daria will always be in my top 10 TV. Teen Witch and Girls Just Want to Have Fun are probably tied for my favorite movie of all time; I feel like I should be ashamed for it not being something more highbrow but I’m really not.

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

Octavia Butler. What a perceptive, intelligent, creative human being we were lucky enough to have walked among us in our lifetime. We got the gift of her stories but can you imagine getting to have a conversation with her?


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