La Grange library turns the page, hires new executive director

Jennifer Hovanec has been working in libraries since high school

Jennifer Hovanec

When Jennifer Hovanec believed she was at a crossroads in her career more than a decade ago, she asked herself a question.

At the time, she was working three part-time jobs, including teaching as an adjunct instructor at Moraine Valley Community College in the developmental education department.

“I loved being a teacher but could tell it wasn’t 100% for me,” Hovanec said. “I thought, ‘What job did I have where I felt truly happy?’ And the one I thought of almost immediately was working in libraries when I was in high school.”

Hovanec first worked as a circulation clerk at the Justice Public Library early in high school.

“Then my family moved and I got a job at the Frankfort Public Library as a technical processing page doing a variety of tasks from covering and repairing books to shelving items,” she said.

After attending an open house at Dominican University, Hovanec was accepted in 2009 and went on to receive her master’s degree in library science. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature, secondary education, from Benedictine University.

“I was enchanted at that open house by professor Janice Del Negro, who is also an author and storyteller extraordinaire,” Hovanec said. “She just got me hooked.”

Hovanec now has taken the helm of the La Grange Public Library as executive director, replacing Charity Gallardo, who took a job as executive director of the Schenectady County Public Library System in Schenectady, New York.

“I am honored to be joining the team,” Hovanec said.

Hovanec, who recently served as the circulation manager at Northbrook Public Library, began her new role in La Grange on Jan. 25.

The La Grange Public Library board of trustees began a national search in September for a new executive director with the assistance of Bradbury Miller Associates, according to a news release.

“We are thrilled Jenn will be leading our team,” Elizabeth Crewe, La Grange Public Library board president, said in the release. “Her broad background in libraries and management, along with her infectious enthusiasm for the patrons and staff, make her a great fit for the La Grange community. We look forward to working with her.”

Hovanec, who grew up in Justice, is excited to work in the village she and her family often frequented when she was a child.

“We would drive into La Grange and take advantage of that small town. [There was] a Main Street vibe they had with all the shops and restaurants. I remember it was a real treat for us to go to breakfast in La Grange when I was little,” Hovanec said.

Before her role at the Northbrook Public Library, she served as the Calumet City Public Library director. She also is a trustee for the Villa Park Public Library.

She and her husband, Roy, live in Villa Park with their two dogs.

Hovanec is excited to take on the new role at the La Grange Public Library.

“What I’m most looking forward to is 100% getting to know and talk with the staff,” she said. “I always feel like that’s the best place to start. The staff are the people who have a direct line to the community every single day. I need to listen to them and take their ideas and put them into action.”

She is excited to get involved with the community.

“That’s something I’m very interested in,” she said. “I consider myself a very civic-minded person and I think that’s going to be a big key in making sure the library is in tune with the La Grange community.”