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Michael J. La Due, Board of Trustees

Describe the importance of public libraries, in 20 words or fewer:
The public library is the place where all the possibilities that make America are renewed with each passage through the door.

Describe your background and what you bring to the board:
After a year at McGill University in Montreal, I came to the U of I to study the history of ideas, earning a master’s degree in European history. I have worked in libraries as a page, shelver, archivist, and preservation assistant. After my B.A., I worked at the Illinois State Historical Library and Society, published a chapbook of poetry, published a feature in the Illinois Times, and went to graduate school.

I served on the City Council from 1985–2017, representing the district Champaign’s Main Library is in, where it has been reborn in our beautiful building. I may be the longest-serving trustee.

I have learned much from jazz, and was privileged to shop for music with Harold Mabern, buy coffee for Cecil Payne, have a drink with Elvin Jones, and talk with Dizzy Gillespie about what to listen for in a trumpet player. I interviewed the late Steve Lacy, the greatest soprano saxophonist of the last fifty years.

I embrace and explore the world in the poetry I have written for many years, and have publicly read all over the country. C. Michael Curtis, retired senior editor of The Atlantic, once sent me a hand-written rejection letter urging me to “seek a less competitive venue.” Emily Dickinson had the same experience at The Atlantic, though not as personal.

What have you read, watched, or listened to lately?
Most recently I have read For a Vast Future Also: Essays from the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, edited by Thomas Schwartz, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, and We Real Cool by bell hooks. The most absorbing film I saw recently is just called, simply, Edvard Munch, and no, it will not make you scream, though it is 174 minutes long!

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