March 16, 2018

Aaron Schmidt | Movers & Shakers 2005


Like many young people, Aaron Schmidt loves electronic gadgets. But not for their own sake. He believes the future of libraries depends on how well we meet the needs of today’s young adults, who are far more tech-fluent than most librarians.

As reference librarian and all-around technology guru at Thomas Ford Memorial Library, Schmidt created the library’s web site using Movable Type, a publishing platform familiar to anyone who reads or publishes blogs. On the site, he offers reference by way of instant messaging. Better yet, on the homework help page, his message reads, "You may find what you need with these links, but don’t give up if you don’t. In most cases, getting in touch with the library will be faster, and you’ll get a better answer. AIM us: thommyford."

It did the trick. As Schmidt wrote in his own blog, Walking Paper, "Today I received my 100th question via AIM. We’ve increased our availability to patrons for no cost, and I’ve helped patrons who otherwise wouldn’t have been helped. I’ve done more YA readers’ advisory in the past two months than I have in the previous two years. I can’t help but think that I’m breathing some life into libraries for these kids."

Schmidt also implemented free wireless access and brought in the ListenIllinois audio ebook project. He had to train library staff, which is how he discovered his talent for teaching.

The word spread, and soon Schmidt was presenting at national conferences. Jenny Levine, Suburban Library System, IL, says it’s a "testament to his personality and abilities that he has become so prominent in just one year."

Schmidt wants to help librarians understand the environment within which libraries must compete, including the commercial web. If we understand what our users get from those realms, and apply those lessons, libraries will have a future.

Schmidt believes that "success is measured not by what one has taken…but rather by what one has given." That matters to him even more than cool electronic gadgets.


Present Position Reference Librarian, Thomas Ford Memorial Library, Western Springs, IL

Degree MLIS, Dominican University, IL, 2001

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Hard-core Librarian So dubbed by friends because he is an avid mountain biker, rock climber, and extreme sports kind of guy