Member Spotlight - Heidi Smith

September 25, 2023

This week's member spotlight is on Heidi Smith, director of the Highland Park Public Library. Heidi previously served as chair of the ILA Fundraising Committee, and is now an active member of the ILA Intellectual Freedom Committee.

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

A little background on Heidi

I grew up in Chillicothe, and I’ve lived in Illinois my whole life. I have an amazing partner who is my best friend, and we have two punky kids and two sweet doggos. I’m head over heels in love with all of them. I get to work with an amazing team of empathetic, passionate, and brilliant people. I am probably the luckiest person you’ll ever meet.

As a library leader with 17 years of experience in public libraries, I've learned a lot and had a ton of fun. As director of the Highland Park Public Library, I'm excited to continue to learn and share my experiences for the greater good. Defining purpose, identifying challenges, and connecting ideas and possibilities are just my cup of tea. And I love tea. And chocolate. And young adult fantasy series!

How did you get your start in libraries?

My first library job was at the Music Library at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I often visited the music library to research scores and recordings, and I saw a job posting on their bulletin board. I worked there for four years, and when I started the master’s program in music, I was invited to apply for the music librarian assistantship which was still open at the start of the school year. All I had to do was take a reference class. I was hooked!

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

It was from Ellen Popit of Illinois Heartland Library System during my first year as a librarian. I was trying to figure out how to make more books available to young students in response to reduced funding in school libraries in our community. Ellen encouraged me to be a good partner and advocate rather than just trying to fill their vital role. I have applied that advice a thousand times in a thousand different scenarios. Thank you, Ellen!

Any advice to newcomers working in libraries?

Work hard and be nice to people. And never forget, “people” means YOU, too! Have fun. Ask for help. Take breaks. Keep the chocolate handy. Celebrate often!

When and why did you become a member of ILA?

My first job as a librarian was in a busy, urban public library. My aspiration was to be a music librarian, and joining a public library team was supposed to be temporary. My mom aways says to listen to my gut, so I listened when I had the opportunity to join the leadership team full-time. I needed all the help I could get, and I jumped at the opportunity to connect with colleagues through ILA and participate in a fantastic leadership program. With this support, the public library became both home and family for me. I am so grateful!

How has being a member of ILA helped you professionally? 

I have learned so much through ILA programs that I can’t even think where I would be without that knowledge, but I think even more than that has been meeting colleagues throughout the state. These are people I have learned from and leaned on, and I will continue to do so. I will work to pay it forward as much as I can, too.

What is your proudest professional achievement to date?

It was a reference question I answered, and you must understand, I’m not a great reference librarian. A new parent needed to get a special car seat to get partner and baby home from the hospital and didn’t know how to get what the hospital required.

With my basic Spanish skills and this patron’s supreme patience, we figured it out together. We called the hospital so I could talk to the nurse, we called stores to find something in stock, and we printed driving directions in Spanish. We found one available for pick up that day to avoid an extra day in the hospital or an expensive ambulance ride to get them home. I will never forget the relief and connection we shared. That is absolutely my proudest professional achievement. That baby will turn 17 this year!

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


Favorite author?

That is such a mean question. Fine. David Sedaris. But what will I tell the others???

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

Ok, the last question was mean, but this one is just brutal. I’m going to cheat and count a series as a book. Twice.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris on audiobook
  • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (series) by Sarah J. Maas
  • The Raven Cycle (series) by Maggie Stiefvater on audiobook
  • If you gave me room for one more, it would be The BFG. Or Miss Nelson is Missing. Oh no, what about Tim Curry reading the Old Kingdom series??? Arg!

Cat or Dog?

Love my doggos.

Favorite film, podcast, or television show?

Ghostbusters. “I love this plan! I’m excited to be a part of it! Let’s do it!”

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

Dolly Parton. So I can thank her.

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