As Peoria Public Library's new Deputy Director, De Fazio sees opportunity, tackles challenges
After more than two decades of overseeing youth programming at Chicago-area libraries and three years as president of the Illinois Library Association, Veronica De Fazio felt ready for a change.
“Seeing the Illinois library world in a broader view and all the things that libraries could do, I was looking for a bigger challenge than youth services was giving me,” said De Fazio, who last week started in her new position as Peoria Public Library’s Deputy Director.
“When I saw the opportunity for this position, I was very, very interested. The Peoria area is very interesting to me. It's growing and flourishing and seemed to offer a lot of challenges and opportunities, and I was really looking forward to that.”
De Fazio said the biggest challenge libraries face now is getting people to return following COVID-19 shutdowns. She said the best way to do that is to stress the importance of the library being fun, friendly and welcoming.
“Every one of our branches is open; we have five buildings and every one is open,” she said. “We missed seeing everyone and showing everyone that we have new resources that they can come in, come and experience, and maybe some of our spaces have been repurposed and are more welcoming. That's the main goal, to kind of get that word out and show people all of the things that we have and how important we are to the community.”
De Fazio, who still serves on the ILA executive board as the immediate past president, said libraries remain vital to the community, but must constantly evolve with more and more people having greater access to modern technology.
“That's the beauty of libraries: We adapt to whatever's happening. When the Kindle, the first e-reader came along, they said, ‘libraries are going to die; nobody is going to need books anymore,’ and books are still very important. Then when the internet came along, they said, ‘libraries aren't going to be important anymore,’ and libraries are still very important.
“But while books and information is still a key to what libraries do, the direction that most libraries are going to be going in the future is becoming a place. We’re the place in the community for people to gather, to collaborate, to do work, to study, to have mothers groups get together, to meet those folks in their community that they might not know or might already have a group and just need a place to meet.”
Peoria Public Library Executive Director Randall Yelverton said De Fazio’s enthusiasm and experience made her the best choice for the deputy director position.
“Though we were fortunate to have many qualified candidates apply, Veronica impressed us with not only her breadth and depth of knowledge, but also her passion for connecting libraries to communities,” said Yelverton. “Her work with the Illinois Library Association is particularly impressive.”
De Fazio comes to Peoria after close to 12 years at Plainfield Public Library. Prior to that, she spent more than a decade with Des Plaines Public Library.
“For many years at the beginning of my career, I was very focused on new services and services to children,” she said. “But especially in my role in the Illinois Library Association, I've been able to see the library world in a much greater scale. And this is an even larger community than the ones that I've worked in previously, and diverse in a new and different way that I am really looking forward to.”
In addition to being Yelverton’s backup, De Fazio will be in charge of Peoria Public Library’s public services departments.
“All of those folks that you see when you come into any of the branches, those are the departments that I'll be overseeing,” she said.
“She's amazing. I definitely couldn't take over for her, for sure,” De Fazio said of Koscielski. “But I hope to learn and I hope to meet many of the people and many of the friends and connections that she has in the community, build upon those connections and just take what she's done and expand and grow those things to make her proud and make the library the best that it can be.”
Yelverton said Koscielski has meant a great deal to the library and to the city of Peoria.
“Roberta has been an invaluable partner during my time here,” he said. “Working side-by-side with her has been a gift, and I will truly miss her on a personal and professional basis, as I know our entire staff will. The programs and community partnerships that Roberta created and led will live on, and, as she herself notes, she’s excited about the library’s future.”