Winner announced in Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project


Special National Library Week Announcement
Winner announced in Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project

For Immediate Release: April 16, 2014

Contact: Sue Wilsey, Niles Public Library, 847-663-6405,
Christine Cigler, Fox River Valley Libraries, 224-699-5884,

It only seems fitting that during National Library Week (April 13-19, 2014) the winner of the first Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project is a librarian. Joanne Zienty, a resident of Wheaton, Illinois and the library media specialist at the Forest School Library in Des Plaines, was awarded the honor for her book The Things We Save at an award ceremony held Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 2pm at the RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Libraries) headquarters in Burr Ridge, Illinois.

WinnerBorn and raised on Chicago’s South Side, Zienty’s first success as a writer came in fifth grade, when she completed a 70-page novel—an “homage” to Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. Her first play, a Thanksgiving melodrama, was produced at her elementary school. She has been writing ever since. Her other passion is working as a librarian combining her favorite pastimes: reading, encouraging others to read, teaching information literacy, and playing with technology. Zienty shared, “As a writer, participating in the Soon to Be Famous Author project has been an incredibly validating experience!”

The Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project is the brainchild of library marketing professionals who were inspired after listening to a presentation by brand expert and NYU professor David Vinjamuri, who spoke at the American Library Association’s 2013 annual conference about the importance of libraries in the era of e-books and self-publishing. He challenged libraries to wield their collective influence to lift a self-published author to success to create a measurable indicator of the power of libraries and librarians to affect books and reading. Currently, 32% of bestsellers on Amazon are self-published.

One hundred three self-published adult fiction titles were nominated and more than 20 librarians across the state served as judges. After a series of eliminations, the top 3 authors were selected and were all present at the RAILS headquarters for the announcement. Vinjamuri flew in from New York to introduce the authors and present the award to the winner.

The Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project is being coordinated in collaboration with the Illinois Library Association (ILA) and Reaching across Illinois Library System (RAILS) and is supported by the American Library Association Digital Content Working Group, the Public Library Association (PLA), and Illinois Heartland Library System.

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Three Finalists Named by Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project




The Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project is being coordinated in collaboration with the Illinois Library Association (ILA) and Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) and is supported by the American Library Association Digital Content Working Group, the Public Library Association (PLA), Illinois Heartland Library System.

For Immediate Release: March 24, 2014

Sue Wilsey, Niles Public Library, 847-663-6405,
Cris Cigler, Fox River Valley Public Library District, 224-699-5884,

Three finalists have been selected from the 103 self-published authors nominated by Illinois librarians for the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project. Robert Doyle, Executive Director of the Illinois Library Association, one of the project sponsors explained, “The purpose of this exciting project is twofold—give a talented author exposure and spotlight the importance of libraries to literature efforts.”

Rick Polad, Carol Stream, was nominated by the Phillips Library at Aurora University for his book Change of Address; Mary Hutchings Reed, Chicago, was nominated for her work Warming Upby the Mount Prospect Public Library; and Joanne Zienty, Wheaton, was nominated by the Forest School Library in Des Plaines for her book The Things We Save.

The winner will be announced at a media reception during National Library Week on Wednesday, April 16, at 2 p.m. at the RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Library System) Administrative Offices at 125 Tower Drive in Burr Ridge.

David Vinjamuri, brand expert and NYU professor who inspired the project, will present the award. Vinjamuri spoke eloquently about the importance of libraries in the era of eBooks and branding at the American Library Association’s annual conference last summer. “David made the point again and again about how libraries are instrumental in promoting reading and literature. He issued a challenge to libraries to find an unknown talented Illinois author that will become a success based on librarians’ recommendations,” said Illinois Library Association Executive Director Robert Doyle.

The winning author will be interviewed by Steve Bertrand, host of Bertrand on Books on WGN Radio (720 AM). Bertrand’s interviews with authors are featured on the Kathy and Judy Show on Saturday mornings between 10 a.m. and noon and posted on WGN’s website in their entirety. He’s interviewed top writers including Scott Turow, Jackie Collins, Lisa Gardner, and Sara Paretsky.

The library community in Illinois is also planning to promote the winning author through special appearances, interviews, feature articles, book discussions, and Skype visits. The committee will be encouraging libraries to purchase the winning title and feature it in displays and book discussions. “Libraries and librarians are experts at recognizing exceptional literature and promoting the works of authors,” said Dee Brennan, Executive Director of RAILS.

Find more information at

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Authors’ Personal Statements

Rick Polad, Carol Stream
Author, Change of Address






After a career as a Geologist, I am now teaching Earth Science and Astronomy at the college level. I spend summers volunteering with the Coast Guard on Lake Michigan and playing golf – sometimes with success. I have been an avid mystery reader since I learned to read and, over the many years, I developed my own character. I wrote a story for my parents and friends but, given the hurdles of the publishing industry, never considered that route. After a suggestion from a friend to e-publish, I published the first book in the Spencer Manning series, “Change of Address.” The third book is due out shortly. The hardest part of this venture is marketing. I am very excited to be a part of the “Soon to Be Famous Author” project. This is wonderful exposure for “unknown” authors and libraries.


Mary Hutchings Reed, Chicago
Author, Warming Up







Warming Up started out as a novel exploring why some incredibly talented people never step into the spotlight and others with less talent never shy away, but it was soon hijacked by a fearless street kid who once charmed sixty dollars from me.

What is exciting about STBF Author Project is not the prospect of becoming “famous,” but the opportunity to reach new readers. Technology has made it possible for writers to become their own publishers, but access to on-demand printing and internet marketing only ensures availability. With ever-increasing choices, the selection process for readers has become overwhelming. Projects like STBF celebrate the critical role of libraries and librarians in curating the public culture and making it truly accessible. Readers trust their librarians to guide them, and there is no greater compliment to a writer than to have a librarian recommend her novel as “a good read.”


Joanne Zienty, Wheaton
Author, The Things We Save





Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, I vividly remember the “glow of industry” that lit the night sky with an orange haze and perfumed the air with acrid odors of coke ovens and blast furnaces, although the steel mills have been shuttered for decades. My first success as a writer came in 5th grade, when I completed a 70-page novel—an “homage” to Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series— and had my first play – a Thanksgiving melodrama – produced on stage at my elementary school.   I’ve been writing ever since. My other passion is working as a library media specialist, combining my favorite pastimes:  reading, encouraging others to read, teaching information literacy and playing with technology.  I live in Wheaton, Illinois with my very supportive husband, two amazing daughters and two naughty cats. As a writer, participating in the Soon to Be Famous Author project has been an incredibly validating experience!


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PLA Conference Workshop Summary: Secrets to Powerful Presentations by Dan Albert

Library marketers often find themselves speaking to boards and community groups about library products and services. Good presentation skills are an essential skill for library marketers. Former Leo Burnett executive Dan Albert’s program on effective presentations was very popular at the October 2014 ILA Conference. For those who were unable to attend the October conference, a summary of Dan’s remarks follow.

Dan Albert learned about the importance of good presentations when he worked at the Leo Burnett ad agency. Dan knew if he could make his presentations more engaging, the agency would be more successful selling its ideas and winning new clients. Here’s what he learned.

On Presentation Excellence
Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery, said “What I hate more than anything is the feeling I get when I realize I am at the beginning of a wasted hour ahead of me.”

Seth Godin wrote, “PowerPoint could be the most powerful tool on your computer. But it’s not.” Godin’s argument is that the fonts, animations and templates are all a distraction from giving great presentations. Presenters become engrossed in the “bells and whistles” rather than communicate simple ideas that use emotion to convey ideas and persuade audiences.

Guy Kawasaki wrote that “99% of presentations suck,” because they are long, boring, contain bad slides and are content-free. What presentations need to be is short, simple, legible and engaging.

Slide Design
Design is not about decoration or ornamentation. It’s about simplicity and economy of expression

1-7-7 Rule:
Came out when PowerPoint was introduced

  • One main idea per slide
  • Only 7 bullet points per slide
  • Only 7 words per bullet point maximum

However, results in slides filled with text from top to bottom and side to side

OR follow Dan’s 1-0-0 Rule:

  • Only one idea per slide
  • Minimum bullet points/text
  • Single bold visual

The general rule of thumb is that it takes approximately one minute to cover the content in a single PowerPoint slide OR follow Dan’s visual-oriented principles: results in up to five slides per minute of content

Be Simple

  • Less is more
  • For a helpful model, think of a great billboard ad:
  • Eye-catching visual
  • Simple short headline

Be Visual

  • Visuals help minimize text and are great for keeping audience engaged and interested
  • For a text-heavy slide with the headline: “Blogs Are Like Sharks” change the slide to simply show a picture of a shark with the same headline
  • “The more strikingly visual your presentation is, the more people will remember it. And more importantly, they will remember you.” Paul Arden
  • Picture Superiority: Pictures are remembered better than words
  • A picture is worth 1,000 words

Make Your Presentation Naked

  • Strip away unnecessary words
  • Seek simplicity
  • Seek clarity

Dan’s rules for presentation success:

  • Simplify
  • Edit
  • Avoid too much information on a single slide
  • Avoid all text slides
  • Avoid small font
  • KISS – keep it simple, stupid

3 Secrets of Powerful Presentations

  • Simplify: Eliminate boring text by simplifying
  • Visualize: Incorporate bold visuals into your presentations
  • Engage: Interact with your audience and use storytelling

Presentation Style

  • Engage – incorporate personal stories and anecdotes
  • Incorporate storytelling – it’s critical to a presentation
  • “Be interesting, or be invisible.” Andy Sernovitz
  • A good presentation should include a little bit of theater


  • Illustrate your points with stories:
  • Stories define us – they provide meaning and context
  • The best presenters today illustrate their points with stories, often personal ones.
  • The power of narrative is so great that it can be a tool to change deeply entrenched views

Dan’s Do’s & Don’ts

  • Create visual slides that reinforce your words
  • Don’t use cheesy images – Avoid clip art! Use free stock photos
  • KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid
  • Create a written document for your audience – a leave-behind
  • Don’t use decorative fonts – they’re hard to read. Stick with simple sans serif fonts like Arial, Calibri, Gill Sans, and Tahoma,
  • Don’t use: ALL CAPS, underline and bold.
  • Not necessary if you’ve minimized the text on your slides
  • If something’s really important, it should be a headline
  • For easier readability use either black font on a white background, or white font on a black background.
  • Use PowerPoint animation to tell your story
  • Animation can help you direct focus of the audience by only showing them what you’re talking about
  • Do use a hand-held remote to advance slides – it’s “man’s best friend”
  • It allows you to work the entire room, making eye contact with your audience instead of looking at your slides
  • Leave the lights on – helps you to make eye contact with your audience
  • Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates
  • Jobs’ presentations displayed mastery of the KISS principle and of using story and emotion to persuade listeners
  • Gates’ presentations had slides that had too much text
  • Make numbers meaningful
  • Have fun
  • Challenge yourself

Elizabeth Neill is a current member and former co-chair of the ILA Marketing Committee. She is extremely active in advocating for Illinois libraries and loves to talk with people to determine how libraries can serve their communities better.

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Engaging Seniors Through Programming

Providing programming for seniors has always been of special interest to me. I feel extremely fortunate that the Brookfield Public Library has a close relationship with Cantata Adult Life Services (also located in Brookfield). Brookfield Public Library was first approached by Cantata about programming in March 2002.  The Adult Services Staff at Brookfield has continually offered programming despite changes in staffing at Cantata and here at the Library. The programs we provide have evolved from once a month visits to a bi-monthly program at Woodlands, a monthly book club at Wye Valley, and book deliveries to homebound patrons.  Christy Eyre, our Partnerships and Public Relations Librarian, runs the monthly book discussion group with seniors at Cantata’s independent living campus. My responsibilities as Adult Services librarian include providing twice-monthly programming for residents of Cantata’s assisted living campus. The population are super seniors – individuals in their late 80s and 90s with limited mobility generally aided by walkers and wheel chairs.

Although much of my programming has evolved from trial and error, the super seniors have responded enthusiastically. Initially, I provided book talks and encouraged other “literary” programming. One such idea was purchasing straightforward and uncomplicated CD players to encourage listening to books on CD. I had to accept that this “technology” was intimidating to my group. I labeled the buttons on the players and gave one-on-one tutorials, but did not have much success.

I have found that the best programming for this group is a presentation with accompanying slides (laminated visuals that can be passed around) and quizzes to keep everyone on their toes. I start each session encouraging conversation on a variety of topics. One example was sharing past travel experiences to tie-in with my “arm chair travelers/wonders of the world” presentation. There were so many individuals excited to share travel memories that I had to extend this particular presentation to another session. What was especially thrilling was hearing from a patron in a wheel chair who also used an oxygen tube and said she use to ride black stallions in Greece as a young woman!

Some other successful topics have included Optical Illusions, Female Mystery Writers and Female Detective Characters, 3D Printing, and Winter Solstice.  All of my folks are quite old — some doze off, some are alert, some are losing their memories and faculties, yet many others are quite involved. What is encouraging is that each patron chooses, and makes the effort, to attend each session. I do bring books for check-out at each session, but most individuals are there for the social stimulation. As outreach librarians, bringing the library to our patrons is much more than books. In this ever-changing world of smart phones, tablets, iPads, eReaders, and 3D printers, we still have a generation for whom face-to-face interaction is of utmost importance. We need to assess our patrons’ needs and provide the stimulation that fits their needs. Brookfield Public Library is cognizant of this need, and has fully supported the development and evolution of my continually adaptive programming for this population.

Laona Fleischer is the Adult/Youth Services Librarian at the Brookfield Public Library.


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The Role of Observation and Assessment in Library Marketing

Informed marketing decisions require detailed information about your organization, your patrons, and your community – the same information that can also be used to drive materials acquisition, staffing levels, and even space needs.

Data regarding your community and population comes from outside of your library – US Census Data, community surveys, and data sold by demographics and consumer research companies are all useful. However, a significant amount of data can be gathered by observing the use of our own libraries in the form of usage statistics.

What statistics you value in your organization to assess the effectiveness of your library services may vary slightly from library to library, but the most commonly used include total circulation, program attendance, patron count (or total visits), and computer use or Internet session total. Many libraries keep monthly statistics in these and other areas, however, more detailed statistics can give you even more information for your assessment toolbox.

Daily and even hourly statistics combined with program attendance and item-type circulation statistics will illustrate usage patterns within your library and allow you to target your marketing efforts to groups of patrons (demographics) that utilize your services and different times of the day and in different ways.

For instance, a spike in patron count and Juvenile circulation might correlate with the weekly Tuesday morning story time. Another example is a daily Yoga program that brings a dozen people into your library who rarely check out materials would register as a patron count spike but not correlate to increased circulation – and may present an opportunity to promote health and wellness materials.

Do you keep track of detailed, daily statistics? If not, start today with a clipboard or a spreadsheet! Keep a close eye on circulation, visits, program attendance (specify between adult, young adult, and children’s programming), computer use, and use of your building.

Every hour, staff at my library note the patron count for the day (allowing me to calculate how many patrons visited each hour of the day), record how many patrons are in the building at that moment, and mark if the patrons are on library computers, using laptops, or using a study room – providing us with a wealth of information about hourly trends that can inform not only the marketing process, but also the best times to schedule what kind of programming and even staffing levels.

As you gather more information and develop an archive of historical data, you will develop a powerful set of tools to assess the use of your library and to inform marketing and strategic planning processes.

Brock Peoples is the Executive Director of the Dunlap Public Library District in Dunlap, IL.

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Library Services as Marketing Tools

Some of the first things we must consider when promoting our libraries are who is using them and why. We know intrinsically that our libraries are used for many reasons from traditional materials checkouts to study space to community meetings to library programs to Internet access and so on, and most of us have the statistics to back that up.

When I took the reins at Dunlap last February, staff members were concerned about declining circulation and less visible use of the library. With the task of developing a marketing plan already in front of me, I asked the question: who is using our library, and why? The immediate answer from staff was: young families for library programs and children’s materials and immigrant families for specialty programs.

Any one use of our library buildings is an avenue to promote further use of our library services. Staff at Dunlap held the perception that we were being used more in one service area (programs) and other service areas (circulation, computer use, etc.) were in decline. The trick, as I saw it, was to promote our programs better in conjunction with promoting other library services to program attendees.

I met with the staff members responsible for programs and together we developed an overall plan for library programming for the new fiscal year. As part of this program schedule, we also discussed how the collection could support the programs and how the programs could support circulation.

Linking the library collection to library programs for the betterment of both is a great way to reach patrons who may have been coming to the library for one service but not the other, but what about the potential patron? The patron who doesn’t have a library card, or does, but uses it at the neighboring library?

We were lucky to have a fair amount of patron feedback on file about the kinds of programs they would like to see in the future and I empowered staff to act on them. We have successfully expanded the number and type of programs we offer and are working to do so further. In addition to simply adding more events to our calendar, we’ve worked to make sure that our events are publicized as widely as possible within our larger community.

By focusing on the programming avenue to attract patrons into our building, we have seen an increase in overall use, including circulation. We have brought patrons back to our library who had been primarily using neighboring libraries as well as encouraging new library users to come in for programs – and sometimes, a new library card.

Brock Peoples is the Executive Director of the Dunlap Public Library District in Dunlap, IL.

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