Member Spotlight - Donna Block

September 11, 2023

This week's member spotlight is on Donna Block. Donna is the youth services coordinator at the Bensenville Community Public Library. She is a long-time member of the iREAD Committee and currently serves as its chair. 

We asked Donna to tell us a little about herself and answer a few professional and amusing questions. Continue reading to find out more about Donna.

How did you get your start in libraries?

I started riding my bike to my local library as soon as the training wheels came off. I never thought about working in one until, in my early twenties, while working on a side project for a side job I visited the Harold Washington Library and started scanning the job opportunities. I discovered that I had many of the necessary skills, and that public librarianship aligned two of my interests: searching for answers and helping people. Of course, the answer I help people with most frequently is where to find the restroom.

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

I've received a lot of good advice, but I think the most useful on a day-to-day basis is to not take patron interactions personally. You never know what is going on in a person's life. If they react disproportionally to something happening at the library, chances are they're reacting to something else or a lot of little things that have built up over time.

Any advice to newcomers working in libraries?

1. Join a forum!
2. Contribute to the iREAD resource guide!
3. Stretch and move around as much as possible during the day.
4. Turn off work message notifications when you're off the clock. Don't check them.
5. Be kind to everyone who walks in the door, including yourself.

When and why did you become a member of ILA?

I first joined ILA around 2010 because I wanted to get more involved with the Young Adult Services Forum (YASF). A few years later I began volunteering with iREAD.

How has being a member of ILA helped you professionally? 

I've met so many people through ILA! Joining YASF and volunteering with the iREAD Committee have been wonderful experiences. Joining ILA led to me presenting at multiple conferences, and co-authoring an article.

What is your proudest professional achievement to date?

I'm most proud of chairing the 2023 iREAD committee, and shepherding the Find Your Voice! theme into existence. Watching it evolve from a rough concept into a complete theme with original art and resource guide has been amazing. Talking to other librarians about how they've interpreted it, seeing how different libraries have implemented it, and interacting with young patrons at my library who are excited to participate has literally been a dream come true.

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

Downloadable audiobooks for convenience. I rarely have time to sit down and read.

Favorite author?

This is a nearly impossible question, but I'll go with Shirley Jackson. "One Ordinary Day With Peanuts" is my favorite short story of all time.

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

I should probably bring some of the books I own that have been sitting in my TBR pile for years, so I'll start with Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson. Then there are all the series I've begun but never finished, so I'll pick The World We Make by N.K. Jemisin and Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko. Finally, I'll bring the nearly 1000-page History of the Hobbit to keep myself occupied. Did you know that Gandalf was originally named Bladorthin?

Cat or Dog?

Dog. Cats are cool, but I am a dog person. I have a 13-year-old rat terrier named Huxley.

Favorite film, podcast, or television show?

The answer to this question changes on a daily basis, but today I'm in the mood for Black Mirror.

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

I'm not that interested in meeting famous people, but I would like to meet my grandfather, Richard Darbyshire. He died when my mom was only five, so I know just very basic information and have only a few photos. As a chemical engineer, he made gas masks and flame retardant for tanks during World War II, and seems like he would have been into all kinds of nerdy stuff like me.

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