Member Spotlight - Elise M. Hearn

October 30, 2023

This week's member spotlight is on Elise Hearn. Elise is the Lakeview Branch Manager at Peoria Public Library and a member of the ILA Diversity Committee.

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

A little background on Elise

Elise is the Lakeview Branch Manager at Peoria Public Library, a member of the ILA Diversity Committee and ILA Diversity Committee Mentorship Liaison. Before becoming a librarian, Elise was a Certified Professional Governess and began her library career as a children’s librarian. She still presents a regular storytime which is usually the highlight of her week.

Elise lives with her husband and two dogs, George and Henry. In her free time she enjoys cross stitch, world building in Minecraft, and spending time with her niece and nephew.

How did you get your start in libraries?

I have been a library user since childhood. My mother is an avid library user and she shared her love of libraries and reading with me. She instilled a belief that libraries are a safe space and reading can take you anywhere. I didn’t think of libraries as a career destination until it was suggested by a Youth Services Librarian I knew during undergrad. Once suggested, I knew it was the right path to take.

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

I don’t think it was intentional advice but when someone asked me “is this the best use of your time?” I really started thinking about my time, especially working hours, differently. Library workers are helpers by nature but we also have high rates of work related burnout. Thinking about how I should or want to use my time helped me start to find boundaries.

Any advice to newcomers working in libraries? 

Get involved with library related committees and organizations outside of the library where you work. Reach out to community organizations to see how your library can support them. And if you ever start saying “this is the way we have always done it” ask yourself why and could it be done differently?

When and why did you become a member of ILA?

I am embarrassed to say I have only been a member since 2022. I really wish that the importance of library associations had been better explained when I was in grad school. I didn’t really understand their benefit or purpose but that is one reason I am so excited to be helping with the ILA Mentorship Program!

How has being a member of ILA helped you professionally? 

Being a member of ILA enabled me to join the Diversity Committee which has been such a fantastic experience. Networking has never come naturally to me but committee work takes some of the anxiety out of that process and gives me a way in to that arena. I am so glad I can work with library workers across the state to tackle issues centered on diversity, equity, and inclusion. At Peoria Public Library I am the chair of our Inclusive Services Committee and I really see both committees as going hand in hand.

What is your proudest professional achievement to date?

Back in 2015 I took part in the Illinois State Library’s Targeting Autism Forum. This is where I learned the benefit of going out into your community and asking them what they need. I learned that there were no local support networks for parents of Autistic children. I started a group that I named the “Autism Resource Group” and we continue to meet once a month. It functions much like a support group with the occasional guest speaker. When I learned that local organizations were referring families to the group I had my own little “wow” moment. It had an added bonus of helping me understand my own neurodivergence.

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

All – each one has different benefits.

Favorite author?

That has always been a difficult question for me but I am currently really enjoying queer romances by Alexis Hall and Alyssa Cole.

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

  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
  • We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
  • Elephant and Piggie: Today I Will Fly by Mo Willems

Cat or Dog?

Both, up until a few years ago I had cats as well as my two dogs.

Favorite film, podcast, or television show? 

Doctor Who – specifically the Matt Smith years.

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

Similar to choosing a favorite author this one is difficult too. Lately I have been doing a lot of grappling with my childhood special interests, one of the largest ones being Gone with the Wind. I was quite obsessed with the book and movie from the ages of 11-14. Looking back, I am honestly embarrassed at having such an attachment to something so obviously problematic. At this point I think the only person connected to that work that I would be interested in meeting would be Hattie McDaniel. I would love to hear her story directly from her without a studio feeding her lines.

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