Urbana library's associate director considered for top job

URBANA – The longtime associate director of the Urbana Free Library has emerged as the leading candidate to replace retiring Executive Director Fred Schlipf.

The library board held a reception Thursday afternoon for Debra Lissak, 54, the associate director at the Urbana library for the past 23 years. She was scheduled to be interviewed by the library board in executive session Thursday night.

The library board is scheduled to meet again today at 1 p.m. and could decide to hire Lissak or reopen the search, said library board Chairman Kermit Alexander.

"The board will meet in executive session to decide where we go from here," he said.

The board originally had hoped to interview two other candidates, but one has accepted another job and the other appears likely to withdraw as a candidate and won't be interviewed, Alexander said.

Lissak, who has worked at the library 26 years total and has a master's degree in library science from the University of Illinois, said she would be thrilled to move into the library's top position.

The salary range for the executive director's position is between $65,000 and $85,000.

"Due to our team management approach, I feel, in almost every requirement of the job, I've been doing it for years," Lissak said.

Perhaps the only exception, she said, is public presentations and responses to the media, which Schlipf has usually handled. Schlipf is scheduled to retire on May 15 after 32 years as the library's executive director.

Lissak said she played a major role keeping the library functioning while a major $8.3 million addition was constructed between November 2002 and May 2005.

"The actual physical part of getting the library moved was my responsibility," Lissak said. "We moved the entire facility – the books, staff and the furniture – three times. It was quite an undertaking."

The addition doubled the size of the library from 25,000 to 50,000 square feet.

If she's selected as executive director, Lissak said one of her top goals will be to identify what segments of Urbana still aren't users of the library and find ways to attract them.

"On a per-capita basis, we're really busy, but we still have a lot of people without library cards," she said. "We need to find out if the library is missing something they need, or if they're just not aware and have never been here."

Lissak has lived in Urbana since 1979 and has four children, two in high school and two in college.

"I identify pretty strongly with Urbana and have been here a long time," she said.

Alexander called Lissak "very knowledgeable" and said she has played a major role in handling the library's finances.

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