Alumna Sue Todd mentors the next generation of library leaders
When speaking to those who know her, whether as a mentor, instructor or librarian, one thing becomes abundantly clear – Suzanne Todd has been a steadfast source of encouragement and inspiration to generations of students and members of her community for more than 30 years.
Now an adjunct faculty member for Wayne State’s School of Information Sciences and director of the Eastpointe Memorial Library, Todd knew from a young age that she wanted to work in a library. "I had two librarians in my life that I respected tremendously," she said. "They were always knowledgeable and friendly, and I thought, 'If I could work here and always be surrounded by information, that's what I would want to do for the rest of my life."
Todd began working in corporate libraries after earning a master’s degree from Wayne State’s Library and Information Science (MLIS) program in 1987. Her career, and her passion for working with the public, took off when she accepted a position at the Eastpointe Memorial Library in Eastpointe, Mich. She eventually became the full-time youth services librarian, a role that Todd said is the foundation for a successful library. “That’s where you build your patron base,” she said. “Without a good youth services librarian, you’re not going to bring in the patrons. It’s the relationships with families that often establishes a lifelong connection to the library and to the community.”
In Todd’s case, those connections have proven to be far reaching and long lasting. "Sue welcomed my entire family to be involved at the library. All three of my sons volunteered in the library over the years in various ways that suited their strengths and my youngest son attended Sue's story times,” said Eastpointe patron Lisa McCabe. “She had a way of fostering community between the story time families and created connections that often continued outside of the library.”
McCabe’s daughter Emily Brush began working as a part-time library page at Eastpointe when she was in high school. “I would always hang out in the youth services area because I loved being around Sue,” she said. And it was Todd who inspired Brush to pursue librarianship as a career. While earning her undergraduate degree in English, Brush worked with Todd as a college assistant in the library’s internship program. “Sue is absolutely the reason I became a librarian. She planted the seed when I was very young and she was there the whole way,” said Brush. “I was the first in my family to go to college and Sue gave me the push I needed to do something that was a little scary for me.”
Brush graduated with an MLIS from Wayne State in 2017 and is now the early literacy librarian for the Novi Public Library. Brush said that the lessons she learned from Todd still impact her work today. “She drilled into me from the start that connecting with the community is the most important part of being a librarian,” she said. “She also taught me that we had to do the best that we could with what we had. When there were limited budgets for craft events, she would task me with seeing what project I could come up with using whatever was on hand. I still use that mentality in my current role and tend to lean towards seeing how we can stretch things a little further.”
Todd also met SIS alums Leah Giordano and Julianne Novetsky when they were only teenagers. And like Brush, Novetsky wasn’t sure about librarianship as a career, but after graduating with an undergraduate degree in English she made what became a life-defining decision to pursue an MLIS at Wayne State. “Sue gave me the opportunity to have hands-on experience that helped me realized it was something I wanted to pursue,” she said. “Grad school was one of the best times in my life.”
Todd’s ability to meet people at their needs within the community made an impression on Novetsky. It’s something that continues to inspire her in her current role in outreach services at the Warren Civic Center Library. “Sue has always been someone you could go to with questions about the profession. Even now there are times I reach out to her for advice,” said Novetsky. “She was a mentor for all of us.”
Giordano, the newly appointed director of the Marathon County Public Library in Wausau, Wisconsin, agrees. She said that as a mentor, Todd helped to shape her professional philosophies. “Sue is someone who leads by example and that really impacted me in a positive way. She is warm, she is a consummate professional, and she takes the important work that we do in serving our communities very seriously,” Giordano said.
For Todd, it’s equally fulfilling to see her former students and interns progress to impressive positions within the profession. “I’m very proud that, not only did they select a career that is meaningful to me, but that they’re doing well in it,” she said. “I’m glad to know that our library provided a little inspiration to help them realize that it was the career for them. I’m just proud.”
Todd was appointed director of the Eastpointe Memorial Library in 2021 and continues to foster relationships despite the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the library had to shut its doors to the public in 2020, Todd began posting video blogs on the library’s website to remind patrons that the library was still available to meet the community’s needs.
“Libraries offer so many services. We’re more than just books,” Todd said. “Libraries have existed for such a long time because we’ve adapted. I’ve never understood the stereotype of the stodgy old librarian because we’ve always adapted to the newest technology to be able to support our patrons and our communities.”