February 17, 2018

Mary Ellen Icaza | Movers & Shakers 2004


Online Opportunist


When Mary Ellen Icaza became Electronic Services Librarian at Montgomery County Public Libraries, she noticed that the readers’ services information on the library web site was invisible, even to librarians. ‘And if staff can’t find it,’ she says, ‘customers can’t.’ She set out to help people find that material–and to turn a ‘static brochure’ into a constantly updated, interactive resource. Her solution, launched in July 2002, was the Readers’ Café, ‘A Virtual Meeting Place for Books and Readers,’ now prominently exhibited on the library’s homepage.

A new edition goes online every month, featuring original reviews and articles by librarians, resources for book clubs, links to library databases, lists of books on order, and contributions from readers. According to Kay Ecelbarger, chief of Collection/Materials Management, the Readers’ Café is one of the library’s most frequently visited pages and has earned ‘numerous unsolicited email compliments from the public.’ Icaza responds to readers’ comments with improved navigation and entirely new features, like ‘True Tales from Real Reading Groups.’

Icaza believes a library web site is a virtual branch, and she strives to make it possible for people to do online almost everything they do at the physical library. But she also believes libraries need to do a much better job of marketing and regards the library web site as a great opportunity. Last year, when she featured the library’s book club titles on the Readers’ Café, the service quickly attracted over 20 groups that now reserve books every month.

It’s not just the collections Icaza is showing off in the highly public (and hip) environment of the Readers’ Café but also the expertise of librarians. Icaza is a team leader who constantly recruits librarians to participate and show off their skills. ‘If I were entering the profession today, this is who I would want to be,’ Ecelbarger says.




Current Position: Electronic Services Librarian, Collection Development, Montgomery County Public Libraries, Rockville, MD
Education: MLS, University of Maryland, 1998
Web site: The Readers’ Café (www.montgomerycountymd.gov/apps/libraries/readerscafe/index.asp )