Heading off into the Sunset Naperville's Library Director Rode into Town 15 Years Ago as a Hired gun.Somewhere along the Line That All Changed

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 31, 2010 | Go to article overview

Heading off into the Sunset Naperville's Library Director Rode into Town 15 Years Ago as a Hired gun.Somewhere along the Line That All Changed


Byline: Bob Smith rsmith@dailyherald.com

Donna Dziedzic didn't plan to spend much time in Naperville when she arrived 15 years ago.

She was a consultant hired by Naperville Public Library a hired gun if you will to serve as interim director while the board looked for a new leader to replace Roger Pearson, who had resigned to accept a position in California.

A specialist in aiding libraries in transition, Dziedzic was a self-professed short-timer with no intention of seeking a permanent position in Naperville. None. Zip. Nada.

And then one cold winter night Dziedzic left the library, and instead of heading straight home to Chicago, decided to take a little ride around downtown.

It was then, maybe for the first time, that she really took note of the city's twinkling holiday lights. And it was then, maybe for the first time, she found herself coming to a surprising realization.

She really, really liked the Naperville Library and the people who worked there. And the Have Library Will Travel hired gun really, really wanted to stay.

"The twinkling lights were the frosting on the 'Oh My God I'm Falling in Love' cake," she says now. "It was the metaphorical ring around my finger."

So the detached consultant, the one who made it a rule never to get too close to the people she worked with so she could remain objective, asked library board members if they might consider her for the post.

They were more than willing, and in April 1996, after watching her work for four months, they hired the consultant with the master's degree in library science from the University of Illinois as their permanent director.

It's the kind of story that probably belongs in a worn book on a dusty back shelf of the library's fiction section.

But it's the kind of story that still makes Dziedzic smile 15 years later as

she prepares for what likely will be her last six months on a job that somehow won her heart.

Building a team

Donna Dziedzic plans to retire in June 2011 after roughly 15 years heading a library that was named the best of its size in the country for 10 consecutive years in the Hennen's American Public Library Ratings, which look at more than 8,000 libraries.

During that time, she helped oversee construction of the $16 million 95th Street Library Naperville's third which opened in September 2003 to serve the city's burgeoning southwest side.

Adding that kind of physical space was a major accomplishment, but she seems far more inclined to talk about her efforts to create a customer-centered service culture and to ensure library employees have a "tighter, closer finger on the pulse of what people want from their library."

Ask her about what she's proudest of and she'll get all corporate on you. She'll talk about providing the best possible stewardship of tax dollars. She'll talk about stressing continuous quality control and urging her staff to always look at everything they do to make sure it's being done the right way.

Administrative Director Marcia Lebeau has worked for the Naperville Library system since 1974 and was there when Dziedzic arrived. From the beginning, Lebeau says, the new director was determined to mold an already talented group of employees into a team.

"That was probably her greatest success," Lebeau says. "Her goal has always been the same: quality of service. We're able to focus on what we're supposed to be doing every day. Once she trusts you, she has the confidence to let you do your work."

Her influence has spread far beyond the walls of the Naperville Library. She's played key roles with the American Library Association and the Illinois Library Association, and currently is president of the DuPage Library System board.

She's done everything in those roles from leading the fight to recover lost state funding to serving on accreditation teams that help schools formulate programs for the next generation of librarians.

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