Celeste Choate Named New Executive Director of The Urbana Free Library

The Urbana Free Library Board of Trustees and the Search Committee for the Executive Directorannounced that Celeste Choate has been selected as the library’s new Executive Director and will begin April 1. Choate leaves her current position as Associate Director of Ann Arbor District Library, where she managed and directed public services across five library locations serving over 160,000 residents.

“I am thrilled to become the new Executive Director of The Urbana Free Library,” Choate said. “It is really clear to me that Urbana values and loves its library, and I look forward to engaging the community and staff to help The Urbana Free Library continue to evolve, building on the accomplishments of its almost 140-year history as we move into the future.”

Choate has worked at Ann Arbor for the past six years, with responsibility for youth and adult services and collections, circulation and outreach services, and management of a staff of 170 employees. Previously, she served in associate director and branch manager capacities for the Clinton-Macomb Public Library District in Michigan, where she spearheaded three opening day collections for three new libraries. Choate holds a Master of Information and Library Science degree from the University of Michigan and began her library career with the Detroit Public Library in 1993.

“Celeste has a proven track record in public library service,” said search committee chair Bob Burger, who is professor emeritus of the University Library and currently adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois. “She has a wealth of library management experience and a wonderful ability to connect with people. The search committee was impressed with how well she did her homework about the library and the city of Urbana, and how enthusiastic she is about both. She is as excited about becoming a part of this community as we are to have her.”

Doing her homework included making the drive through a blizzard to visit Urbana-Champaign and the library incognito the week before her interview. “I wanted to see the library on a typical Saturday, and I wanted to see Urbana,” Choate said.

The announcement of Choate’s hiring from board president Chris Scherer brings the library to a new beginning after a search process that began with public meetings last October inviting community input about the ideal candidate. “We started this process wanting to make sure to listen to the community, and I think Bob Burger and the search committee helped us to accomplish that goal. The board is looking forward to working with Ms. Choate. We think she has the kind of leadership we need for the library. Innovative, collaborative, responsive—and she is totally dedicated to excellent library service that meets the needs of the community. We couldn’t be more pleased.”

Choate was one of three finalists who were invited for an on-site visit in early February. She participated in a marathon day of interviews with the search committee, library trustees, senior staff, and all library employees who took the opportunity to attend one of two employee interview sessions. Choate’s interview day ended with a public reception at the library, where she met community members and gave a brief talk, answering questions from the audience.

“I believe that libraries need to be at the core of the community, contributing to the quality of life, providing excellent service to all segments of our community,” Choate said. “We need to provide wonderful library experiences in person and virtually that will make patrons want to return again and again.”

When asked if she is ready to switch her allegiance from the University of Michigan Wolverines to the Illini, Choate laughed and said she is really looking forward to performances at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.