Two months after Pam Leffler resigned from her position as Morton Grove Public Library director, Debra Stombres, the Eola Road branch coordinator at the Aurora Public Library, took her spot.
A St. Charles resident, Stombres has been in the library field for 18 years. She has worked at Aurora Christian Schools and Geneva Public Library before she became a branch manager at Aurora Public Library. She currently oversees more than 40 staff members and performs various managerial functions.
Stombres graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor's degree in flute performance in 1981 -- three years after she won the Miss Illinois pageant at the age of 19.
But despite her affinity for music, Stombres chose a library field. She received her master's degree in library and information studies from Northern Illinois University in 1991 and later went for her MBA from the University of Phoenix.
"I grew up in libraries, my mother's college roommate was a librarian," Stombres said. "I spent a lot of time in her library and always hoped to do that someday. I couldn't decide which I wanted to be: a musician or librarian. Somehow I managed to do both."
Stombres said she had applied for the position in Morton Grove in December 2013 when she saw a job posting on Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) -- a regional library system that covers northern and western Illinois.
Morton Grove Public Library Board President Mark Albers said after narrowing down the focus on two candidates with the help of a consultant, the board made an offer to Stombres in early February.
"She had a lot of energy, a lot of experience," Albers said. "She is what we are looking for and believes in community outreach, has experience in building repurposing which is something library wants to start this year. She fit well into what we were looking for."
Before accepting the job, Stombres said she had to turn down another offer -- the same position from the Decatur Public Library.
"Just a few weeks earlier I applied for Decatur," she said. "I wanted Morton Grove more and wasn't sure if I would get it."
Aside from her library career path, Stombres has worked for a telecommunications firm while she was raising her children Abigail, Jonathan and Adam. She says she has a "gadget fetish" and thinks of the library as a technology hub where people can learn to use exciting innovations.
"Libraries are involved in so many different kinds of technologies," Stombres said. "Everything from what we use in the databases to programming when we teach computer classes."
During her six years at Aurora Public Library, Stombres supervised the West Branch and the Eola Road Branch. She says she hopes to stay in the library field until she retires.
"I enjoy managing people and drawing out of them what they are good at," she said. "Finding what their individual strengths are and then seeing them getting a chance to use them. That's very gratifying to me."
Stombres will begin her duties on March 24. Until then, the assistant director and head of automated services and technology, Kevin Justie, will fill in.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun