Member Spotlight - Amy Byers

October 9, 2023

This week's member spotlight is on Amy Byers. Amy is the director of the Chatham Area Public Library District and currently serves as ILA Vice President/President-Elect.

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

A little background on Amy

I grew up in the Springfield area, and my dad would take me to the Lincoln Library on the weekends. There, I could check out anything I wanted and became immersed with books. My mom would supplement my reading habit by picking up old 1970’s teen books at garage sales, so my reading history was varied at a young age. 

I left the area to go to a small college in Iowa, and then grad school at Indiana University. My mom saw a library position advertised in the local paper, which brought be back to the area, to Chatham. I’ve been there now for over 15 years, first as a Reference Librarian, then as Director. I live in Chatham, with my husband and our old, fat dog, Brutus.

How did you get your start in libraries?

I would like to say it was the work study program that I did back in high school. I was placed in the junior high library, where my job was to shelf read. But, it was actually a year after I finished college. I had just been rejected for an internship with the General Assembly and I was trying to figure out my next steps.  After researching options, I realized that I loved all that libraries represented and gave to their communities, and I wanted to be a part of that. 

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

“We aren’t a hospital. No one is going to die if you make a mistake.” That was what my predecessor, Linda Meyer told me while she was teaching me the job of director. I was so scared, as I became the director less than a year out of grad school with barely any experience. That advice has helped me be more confident in my decision making all these years later. 

Any advice to newcomers working in libraries?

Our profession is the best. Where else can you call a stranger in the field, and ask them questions about pretty much anything? AND THEN they not only answer all of your questions, but also share all of the files, notes and tips that they have? We have the best support system around, so don’t be afraid to use it.

When and why did you become a member of ILA?

I became a member in 2015. I realized that I wanted to grow my network throughout the state and wanted contribute to the bigger library world.

How has being a member of ILA helped you professionally? 

So being the director can be lonely. I’m the type of person who likes talking out ideas, and sometimes you can’t do that within the walls of your library. ILA allowed me to connect with others in our field, ask questions and sometimes just vent. I look forward to seeing many friends’ faces on committees and at events throughout the year. These people fill up my cup (and sometimes literally at the bar after a long day!).

What is your proudest professional achievement to date?

Just like everyone, I was beaten up pretty badly from the COVID-19 closures. It took a lot of mental energy to be confidently in charge during that time, and I was feeling it. One day, I came to work, and there was a yard sign outside that said, “World’s Best Library Director.”  Inside, the staff had all signed a card, given me gifts and most importantly, thanked me for the job I was doing during that difficult time. That meant the world to me that the staff, who were also stressed out and scared, took the time to acknowledge me in that way, when I needed it the most. 

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

Why pick favorites?  I think they all are good at different times… although I do love a good audiobook narrator…

Favorite author?

Isn’t this like picking your favorite child?  I love people who make me laugh, so I’ll say David Sedaris.

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

  • Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Santa Land Diaries (and frankly all of his books), by David Sedaris
  • Maybe a few classics that I haven’t read, but should have by now…

Cat or Dog?

I just found out I’m super allergic to both, but my DOG doesn’t seem to care. 

Favorite film, podcast, or television show?

Films: I think I’d fall asleep in most films anymore. It’s horrible.  But, when I’ve taken a nap earlier in the day, I’ll say: The Jerk, Amelie, The Princess Bride, Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Podcasts: Mobituaries, Stuff the British Stole, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, Ultra

Television Shows: Our Flag Means Death, Parks and Rec, and any dumb game show (have you seen Holey Moley?)

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

I’d love to meet so many people throughout history, but at the end of the day, I’d like to connect again with my paternal grandmother, who passed right before I graduated with my Master’s. I think of her often, and would love to hear her talk about her camping friends, her “stories” (Days of our Lives) and what she had for lunch that day. I miss the simplicity of our conversations. 

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