Job Shadow: Jill Markgraf — Library Director

By Rebecca Mennecke

Markgraf said she painted the wall of her office purple after she expressed her dislike of the white walls, and a coworker recommended the color to her. © Rebecca Mennecke 2019

Being the director of a library entails a number of responsibilities including, but not limited to: attending staff meetings, working on committees, conducting personnel reviews, producing annual reports, answering emails — lots of emails, doing research, overseeing finances, working on library policy — and the list continues.

“My role is to enable people to do what they do, and do it well,” Jill Markgraf, the director of McIntyre Library, said.

Markgraf, a former journalism student from University of Wisconsin-Madison, graduated with her masters of library science degree — a necessary certification for all library directors in Eau Claire — in 1986.

She said her first “real job” was at the office where both the Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times operated. She worked in what was nicknamed “The Morgue” — or where the old news stories were filed.

She has worked in various library positions at the University of Florida, the University of Mississippi, Michigan Tech and finally, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where she started part time, she said.

“If you stick it out, you end up in a director’s office,” Markgraf said.

Both Markgraf and Pamela Westby, the public library director of L.E. Phillips Memorial Library, said directors spend a majority of their time responding to emails and in various meetings.

In addition to a masters degree in library sciences, both directors said they had to meet the requirement of having leadership experience in other library positions before their hire in the position of director. Markgraf fulfilled this requirement when she worked as the interim director for the year prior to her hire as director.

The two types of library director positions — academic and public — do differ in some regards, Westby said.

“Public libraries serve a more diverse customer base… than academic libraries,” Westby said. “Our service hours, collections, programs and partnerships have a broader audience.”

Markgraf, as a part of her work as a library director at an academic library, must do research, she said. She was recently published in a book that was co-authored by a few of her co-workers.

“I appreciate having an elevated voice in decisions now,” Markgraf said. “I really think it puts me in a place to be an advocate for things I truly believe in.”

She said women tend to hold back in their careers until they feel they are fully prepared for a position, and she said it is important for young women to know it’s okay to ask lots of questions.

When it comes to how to get to the position of library director, Westby offers some advice: “Ask the right questions, think strategically… (and) learn from your mistakes.”

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