Member Spotlight - Ellen Fitzgerald

March 25, 2024

This week's member spotlight is on Ellen Fitzgerald. Ellen is the Children's Services Supervisor at the Nichols branch of the Naperville Public Library. Ellen is the current chair of the iREAD Committee and previously served on the ILA Conference Program Committee and the ILA Youth Services Forum. 

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

A little background on Ellen

I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn’t enjoy books and working with kids. I grew up in Orland Park and frequently visited the Orland Park Public Library.  I began working with kids in an educational environment when I was 12 years old. I volunteered as a junior tour guide and was later hired as a camp counselor at the Children’s Farm in Palos Park. When I went to college it was with the plan of being a middle school teacher, but during my junior year of college, I realized that working in a school was not the right fit. 

As I struggled with what I would do with a major in history and a minor in biology, I saw a sign advertising an MLS program, and I knew that was my path. However, due to getting married, then having two amazing kids, and a husband in the military, it would take me a few years to get started. In 2007, my dream became a reality! I moved back to Illinois and began working in libraries. I started my master’s degree in 2008 with two toddlers and a deployed husband, but I was able to complete it online through one of the nation’s earliest online MLS programs at Drexel University. 

I spent 10 years at White Oak Library before I moved to the Naperville Public Library in 2017.  I have loved every minute of this career and am always looking for more library opportunities.  I have served on the ILA conference planning committee, the Rebecca Caudill evaluator’s committee, the Youth Services forum, and after serving many years on the iREAD committee, I am looking forward to chairing the 2026 Summer Reading Program for Plant a Seed, Read!

How did you get your start in libraries?

As soon as I moved back to Illinois from living near my husband’s military base in Alaska, I applied for every part-time library job near my house.  I got my first position as a page working for White Oak Library, then called Des Plaines Valley Public Library. Due to childcare costs, I ended up paying more money than I made to work there, but I knew it was the best way to get my foot in the door.

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

Sometimes instead of replying to an email, the best thing you can do is to get out of your chair, or pick up the phone, and talk to them. Email is fast, but some things can only be communicated well through conversation.

Any advice to newcomers working in libraries? 

Don’t be afraid to start something new because you will be bad at it. Whether that be a new program, a new job, or a new hobby.  No one starts at greatness; it is achieved by consistently trying to improve ourselves one day at a time.  

When and why did you become a member of ILA?

I became a member of ILA in 2015, because I felt like I had missed out on networking opportunities by getting my master’s degree online. I wanted to get to know peers outside of my library.

How has being a member of ILA helped you professionally? 

Being a member of ILA has connected me with librarians across the state.  I have been able to bring wonderful ideas and resources back to the communities where I worked. ILA has also helped me improve my public speaking skills when addressing peers, offered me leadership opportunities, and several great friendships.    

What is your proudest professional achievement to date?

I have to say my proudest professional achievement is my staff.  I feel like I have built a truly exceptional department full of immensely talented individuals. I was able to retain some high performing veteran staff and was very intentional when hiring new staff.

Everything I have accomplished, like expanding our world language services, creating an outreach summer reading program, and developing a premier play space, would have been impossible without staff who believed in my vision and the mission of the library.

At the end of the day, they were the ones lugging the bags of books, presenting programs in other languages, and engaging with our customers. None of my initiatives would have been successful without them.

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

I enjoy them all, but if I had to choose only one, I would pick an audiobook. I love how I can listen to them while doing almost anything else.  Also, one of my favorite things to do is listen to an audiobook on a road trip with my family. 

Favorite authors?

Neil Gaiman, N.K. Jemisin, Andy Weir, Patricia Briggs, Pam Munoz Ryan, Kate DiCamillo, Mac Barnett, Mo Willems, Jan Thomas and Emily Bleeker.

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

7 Habits of Highly Effective People, A Bird Field Guide, SAS Survival Handbook (this just seemed practical for the situation), A Wheel of Time Omnibus, and Yes Please. 

Cat or Dog?

Cat, because my cat, Clawdia, would never forgive me if I wrote dog.

Favorite film, podcast, or television show? 

Star Wars and Parks and Rec

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

I would love to meet my paternal Great Grandfather. He emigrated here from Greece after serving in World War I.  He met a friend while serving who convinced him to move to the United States and marry my great grandmother. He spoke many different languages and generally led an interesting life. My grandfather used to tell me stories of the restaurant he owned across the street from the old Comiskey Park, and how he knew Charles Comiskey.

iREAD Summer Reading Programs

Since 1981, iREAD provides high quality, low-cost resources and products that enable local library staff to motivate children, young adults, and adults to read.

Visit the iREAD website »

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