Photo provided by Stark County District Library
Mary Ellen Icaza is the CEO/executive director of the Stark County District Library. Mary Ellen, her husband, Javier, and children, Christian and Victoria, recently moved to Stark County from Montgomery County, Maryland.
Not every day do you get to talk books with the head of the library. While we asked Mary Ellen for her book picks, we also got some more background on her and the library.
Q. What got you interested in your career?
A. I think I always knew I wanted to work in a library. I have loved libraries and reading since early childhood. In graduate school, I decided to focus on public libraries because I loved the ability to connect people with information to help them in their daily lives—from the student researching for a school assignment to an adult learning to use a computer for a job. We meet patrons where they are and make a difference in their lives.
Q. What is your favorite part of your job?
A. Libraries are the great equalizer, and Stark Library is a vibrant community hub in each of our branch neighborhoods. We serve the entire community from birth to seniors, and we make a difference in people’s lives via the resources, services and programs we offer. All are welcome in the public library regardless of age, gender, race, income.
Q. What aspect of the Stark Library are you most proud of?
A. I am most proud of the work we do meeting community learning needs whatever they might be.
Our Mobile Services department, with the largest bookmobile fleet in the state of Ohio, brings the library to people where they are, including preschools, senior centers, homebound patrons and even the jail!
I am also proud of the work that we do in Early Literacy. We help children get ready for school through our story times and SPARK program.
I am also proud of how innovative our library is and how our collections, programs and service delivery have continuously evolved over time. Recently, I met a woman who had lost her job and she told me how the library was vital to her in learning new computer skills as she looked for another job.
Not only do we lend books, but you can borrow bikes, Wi-Fi hot spots, kilowatt readers, digital projectors and more from our Library of Things. We also offer one-on-one appointments with staff experts on technology, genealogy, readers’ advisory, passports and more.
What is the book that shocked you the most?
“Defending Jacob” by William Landay (433 pages, 2012). It is a legal thriller, but it also is a family drama with a devastating and shocking ending. I couldn’t put it down.
What is the last book you read?
“Clementine” by Sara Pennypacker (series started in 2006). My daughter and I went to see the musical based on the book last year with her class, so we read the book together.
What section of the library or bookstore do you visit first?
Teen fantasy. This has become my favorite genre to read as I love escaping to a new world that an author has created, especially when it’s a series.
What is your favorite book twist?
“We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart (242 pages, 2014). I listened to this as an audio book, and it was totally absorbing, with a completely unexpected ending. I didn’t see the twist coming at all, which made it such good writing.
What is the last book that made you cry?
“When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi (258 pages, 2016). It is a beautiful memoir written by a neurosurgeon who is dying of cancer.
What is next up on your reading list?
“Time’s Convert” by Deborah Harkness (448 pages, 2018), who wrote “The All Souls Trilogy.” I am eagerly waiting to read it as it is her first new book in several years, and it features many of the same characters and world from the trilogy.
What is your go-to book recommendation?
I have two. “Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern (389 pages, 2011) and “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John (378 pages, 2014). Both are very different styles and genres. One is fantasy, and the other is post-apocalyptic, but the storytelling in both is very well done. They are both the kind of books you don’t want to end.