Board Members

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Sara Zumwalt Sara Zumwalt

President
Public Library Representative

I have been a patron of the Litchfield Library since I was a young girl. Now I am the director. I feel that libraries are the heart of every community, and I am proud to be a part of IHLS as we strive to serve libraries and communities of all sizes.
Stacey Carter Stacey Carter

Vice President
Special Library Representative

I have always loved to read, so later in my career when I had the opportunity to work in a school library I jumped at the chance. Now I run the Law Library and General Library at the Decatur Correctional Center. My library ensures the incarcerated receive their constitutional rights to access legal aid. My patrons have access to legal forms, law books, magazines, and books. Incarcerated patrons (on average) read twice as many books compared to other patrons. My library is a “public library” just inside a barbed wire fence. IHLS and its community provide instrumental support to librarians like me who run small libraries.
Sandy West Sandy West

Secretary
Academic Library Representative

I have a love for reading and would love when I grow up to become a professional book reviewer for some of my favorite authors like James Patterson, Tess Gerritsen, etc. My passion then extends to the work I perform at Rend Lake College, where I find it a value to share the knowledge of library resources with our students, staff, and faculty. To further support those efforts I believe in the IHLS board and IHLS staff’s commitment to bringing library resources to the communities IHLS serves.
Beverly Obert Beverly Obert

Treasurer
Public Library Trustee

I love libraries and all the things I can explore and learn about in them. I have worked in public libraries and in the systems. Being a trustee allows me to help libraries remain strong and vital for others to explore.
Melanie Allen Melanie Allen

School Library Representative

Growing up, I always considered the library a magical place full of amazing characters and spellbinding stories. After spending more than a decade teaching middle school and high school English, I took a leap and returned to the "magic" now serving as the school librarian and technology teacher at Mt. Zion Intermediate School. I believe strongly in the importance of providing all students the school library they deserve - with an inclusive and welcoming space, high quality and engaging resources, and a well-trained certified librarian to provide support. I am excited to join the IHLS board and be a voice for school libraries across the state.
Geoffrey Bant Geoffrey Bant

Public Library Trustee

I was born in the north of England and came to Chicago in 1957. My elementary school was named after Bernard Moose who pioneered libraries in the Chicago Schools. My work life has always been connected with the printed word as a typesetter, newspaper production manager and director of Printing at the University of Illinois. I am also a potter and after retirement from the University I ran a pottery studio for the Champaign Park District for many years. Before paper was developed clay tablets were used for thousands of years to record words and thoughts. I am now a full-time special education aide in the Urbana Schools. I acquired a Library Science degree in the 1980s and worked in many of the libraries at the U of I. I have been a member of the Urbana Free Library board for several years. I believe libraries are the most important cultural institutions we have and should be developed and guarded for the sake of our democracy, our economy and our future.
Gary Denue Gary Denue

Public Library Trustee

My first experience with a library happened in the 4th grade on my way home from school. I disobeyed my parents and crossed the road to the town hall where in the basement resided our local public library. An amazing adventure opened up to me on that day. Since that time I have been involved in advocacy for libraries both as an academic librarian and a trustee of both a public library and a library system. I retired as Associate Dean of Library and Information Services at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2010. I currently serve as a trustee of the Edwardsville Public Library and in the early 1990's was on the Board of Directors of the Lewis and Clark Library System. I am a strong proponent of cooperation, resource sharing and technology as means to strengthen individual libraries and the communities they serve. Apart from my love of reading and service to my local library and IHLS, you can catch me fly fishing anywhere in North America.
Tina Hubert Tina Hubert

Public Library Representative

I've been a library-geek since I was a very young child; and interestingly enough I'm in the same library now as I was then (Granite City is my hometown). I've worked in libraries across Illinois for almost - gasp - 30 years! It is my honor and privilege to try to support and contribute as much as possible to all types of libraries, because all types of libraries have added so much to my life both personally and professionally.
Janet Jenkins Janet Jenkins

School Library Representative

Librarianship is the only career path I have ever known. In 1988, I graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor’s degree in library science education while working at Milner Library during my undergraduate years. I returned to my hometown and was employed as the young adult librarian at Robinson Township Public Library before becoming the librarian at Robinson High School where I’ve loved my job and my students for the last 30 years! Along the way, I received my master’s degree in educational administration from Eastern Illinois University (1993), achieved my National Board Certification in school librarianship (2011), served on various committees as an active member of AISLE (formerly ISLMA), and mentored some amazing former students-turned-librarians. The loss of school librarians is a serious concern of mine. We are not just keepers of books, but also technology integration specialists, social media experts, AV technicians, problem solvers, bibliotheraphists, teachers, and cheerleaders for lifelong literacy and learning!
Gary Jones Gary Jones

Public Library Trustee

I believe that the library is the center of whatever community it serves and has the privilege and responsibility to positively impact of the lives of each member of the community. The Illinois Heartland Library System must serve as a catalyst for change by innovatively leading member libraries through the many successes and challenges they face.
Robert Paarlberg Robert Paarlberg

Public Library Trustee

I am a late bloomer to world of libraries. I grew up on a farm south of Chicago and rarely had the opportunity to visit the library. Throughout high school and college my interests and attention were elsewhere and I entered the library only when necessary. As I matured, I found it easier to buy a book rather than check one out. I would occasionally go to a library to see which books I wanted to buy. But I don’t think I got my library card until past middle age. Since becoming a trustee and active patron of our local library I see the tremendous value of the library in fighting illiteracy, the digital divide and freedom of speech. I am a fierce supporter of libraries and their profound impact on our communities and our culture.
Susan Pennington Susan Pennington

School Library Representative

From the time I was a little girl, I loved visiting the library. It was a small portion my hometown’s community building. I loved the ornate wood trim, the fireplace (yes, it had a fireplace although it was never lit!), the smell, and most of all the librarian! She was always warm and welcoming! While I was not, perhaps, the most avid reader back then, I still loved books. This love of books grew over time and during college I worked in my campus library as part of the technology department and learned that libraries were way more than just books! After teaching high school English for many years, I returned to school to earn my license as a school librarian. My love of books- in all forms: digital, audio, and physical- has grown exponentially. Young adult fiction is my absolute favorite, so I’m well placed as a high school librarian! Encouraging teens to read and helping them find just the right book is very rewarding! Bridging the gap between public libraries and school libraries is a high priority for me, and l look forward to working on the IHLS board to learn all I can to promote libraries.
Mary Smith Mary Smith

Public Library Trustee

I am originally from Ft. Wayne, Indiana. From my youngest days, I can remember visiting the two nearest library branches of Allen County Public Library, Tecumseh and Little Turtle. Some patrons may be familiar with the Allen County Public Library; it has the 2nd largest genealogical holdings in the country, after the Latter-day Saints church. My Lutheran grade school and high school had very respectable libraries as well. I attended the Indiana University satellite campus in Ft. Wayne where I majored in English lit and worked with the campus theatrical group. As a Lit major, I naturally wanted to run a bookstore; but I had come under the spell of a high school teacher who sat on the Allen County Board of Trustees. She pointed me in the direction of graduate library school at the main campus of Indiana University Bloomington.

I look back at that year and the curriculum then and shake my head at how much the world of librarianship has altered; well, it was last century after all. Our university libraries weren’t even online yet; to see that we had to visit neighboring Ohio State. We did have Chem. Abstracts but in one computer class we learned something called SNOBOL. We used punch cards! You get the drift.

My first professional job was with Belleville Public Library. Later, I worked with one of Indiana’s multi-type library systems, TRI-ALSA, in reference and ILL. But eventually I came back to Illinois and retired as director of O’Fallon Public Library. It’s been an amazing sea of changes for library services since that graduate degree. I hope I can contribute to the future services of our system by service on the Board of Illinois Heartland Library System.
Charlene Topel Charlene Topel

Public Library Trustee

The enjoyment of reading for entertainment and information has been central to my life. For a number of years this pursuit was channeled to helping others as a member of the staff of a public library. Serving on the IHLS board has expanded my goal and responsibility to provide information by means of books and technology to the public of Illinois
Sharon Yearwood Sharon Yearwood

Public Library Trustee

My name is Sharon Simmons Yearwood. I was born in Mt Vernon, IL, in 1950, and grew up in this southern Illinois town in the very best of times. My love of books started early with my first teacher--my mother. She read and read and read to me. She introduced me to a place that kept weaving in and out of my life, a place I have always loved, a place now known as C E Brehm Memorial Public Library.

As a youngster, I would ride my bicycle, with basket attached to the handlebars, to the Mt Vernon Public Library and check out Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and Donna Parker mysteries. As I attended high school, I would study and do reports, and research papers with my husband-to-be, Steve, at that same library. After graduating from SIU-C as an educator, I brought my students and, as a young mother, my two sons to the same library. Then, again, after retiring from thirty-two years of educating children, I returned to that same library, now known as C E Brehm Library, to become a staff member and later a trustee. As you can see, my public library has always been a brilliant yarn in the tapestry of my life continually weaving my love of books throughout my life.