7 Questions with Ellen Book

How did your library career get started? In my teens, I had a part-time job as a shelver at the Hollywood Branch Library. I felt so at home. The combination of organization, research, creativity and helping the public hands-on was a perfect fit. When I left for college, I knew that librarianship was my future. 

Libraries anchor communities. As a professional librarian, I can match the community’s needs with a vibrant array of resources. I can create classes and workshops open to the public in safe and comfortable surroundings. To this day, I cannot think of a better career. I have mentored others who show the same positive attitude toward the mix of customer service, inquiry and innovation. 


Tell us about your career with Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS)? Back in 1987, with my freshly minted master’s degree from FSU, I was focused on the corporate world; my destiny was to be a business librarian extraordinaire. So, I headed south and surprisingly found a hybrid of my dream job. I was hired by MDPLS in a position that combined business and science with public service. For my first four years, I worked with entrepreneurs and small business owners and researched patents and trademarks. Then, I changed course and was promoted to managing branches. Over the last 24 years, I have been the branch manager at the Coconut Grove, South Miami, Miami Lakes, Miami Beach, Coral Gables and Palmetto Bay branches; I am currently branch manager at both the Country Walk and Pinecrest locations. With a career spanning over two decades and the memorable last name of Book, I am recognized all over the county by those I have helped. 


Everyone knows what a library is, but not everyone knows what the library currently does. What’s new and different? Libraries are beloved because of their long history of helping people help themselves and, of course, sharing books. We are still all of that – plus much more. We’ve expanded from a community space geared toward lifelong education with librarian guides who create learning opportunities to having a valuable online presence.   


What sort of online presence? People are just discovering that MDPLS can be their Netflix, Audible, iTunes, Oyster, Amazon Books, Rosetta Stone and even Publishers Clearing House. Through Hoopla, MDPLS offers downloadable on-demand movies, music, e-books and audiobooks without a waitlist. For students, the library has a link to Tutor.com, connecting library cardholders to experts in math, science, job searching and other essential subjects. There are three options for online language courses: Mango, PowerSpeak and Discover Spanish. There are thousands of downloadable templates for business contracts through Gale LegalForms. For access to 256 current magazines to download and keep, take a quick tour through Zinio. 

There are many more options that we urge you to explore at mdpls.org. First, click on the link “Research and Learning,” then try the link “eBooks and More.” There’s a bounty of resources that are relevant to saving you time and money.  


But don’t many people believe that Google is replacing libraries? I use Google every day, as do billions of others. Whereas Google is just a search tool, libraries with librarians are the full package. Librarians are invaluable when you need a real-time advocate to research your issue. We provide a concierge service to plough through a problem and invent ways to promote the love of lifelong learning and reading. As author Neil Gaiman wrote, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”


What is something no one knows about you? I’d love to sing; but it actually hurts people to hear me sing, so I just hum softly and then I don’t hurt anyone.  


What is the best thing about working in Pinecrest? I’m thrilled to be in the midst of great beauty and a buzz of liveliness. From the tree-covered parking lot to the world-class garden to the go-getters who are exercising next door at the gym and playing soccer behind the library that visit the branch to find answers to their questions and enjoy our resources… it is a vibrant place. 


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