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Community Member Spotlight: Roger Liew

Roger is a trailblazer in tech, paving the way for cutting-edge teams and mentoring the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs. Currently, he’s a Partner at Impact Engine, supporting startups with positive social impact. When Roger is not helping bring positive-impact businesses to life, he is powering our Library as a Board member.

Get to know Roger and his passion for empowering the community through learning!

When did you join the Library Foundation Board?

I joined the Board in 2017 right after a good friend of mine, Wendy Berger, invited me to the Sandburg Dinner (now the Chicago Public Library Foundation Awards).

What drew you to serve on the Board?

I found it very compelling that the Library is one of the few organizations that serve every community in Chicago. When I started, I was supporting a good cause. After being part of the community for almost five years now, it’s become so personal – like it’s now part of my identity as a Chicagoan.

As a Library Foundation board member, it’s incredibly fulfilling to know you have made an impact.

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Library Foundation community?

If I were to pick just one, it would be the 2018 Sandburg Dinner conversation with Judy Blume and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Who would have thought that a YA author and an astrophysicist would have such a brilliant rapport?

2018 Carl Sandburg Literary Award honorees Neil deGrasse Tyson and Judy Blume.

What do you think is the importance of public libraries in the community?

What I am most impressed and proud of is how the Library has been kept up to date, pulling the levers of innovation to respond to the community’s ever-changing needs. Over the years, the Library has been a gateway to critical programming that goes beyond the books. Access to books will be the Library’s DNA, of course, but now more than ever, CPL has been Chicagoans’ access to the opportunities and the world.

Is there a specific Library resource that resonates with you? Why?

The Library’s digital literacy program is near and dear to my heart. The function of it is so important, especially now. Working in the tech space, I’m the default helper with the tech issues in the family. So, I can appreciate a hub where people get the support they need – whether it’s learning how to use the computer or applying for a job (or preparing to apply for a job) is so, so essential.

What’s your Library story?

The yellow brick road in front of the house in Humboldt Park where Frank Baum wrote Wizard of Oz. Photo courtesy of WBEZ.

I grew up in a small town in Central Valley, California. My dad was a farmer. You can imagine that there are not a lot of things to do on a farm. I had a lot of free time, so I went to the local library. Every summer, essentially, I would read 80% of the books in the library. My favorite book then was The Wizard of Oz. I was just entranced with the story and all the possibilities out there.

Now, I run by the Yellow Brick Road sidewalk in Humboldt Park and I can’t help but think, thank God Frank Baum was there for me!

What’s your neighborhood branch?

The Bucktown branch is the neighborhood branch closest to me. A couple of summers ago, my daughter volunteered for the Summer Learning Challenge. I would walk her there all the time and every time, I always go home with a book.

What’s your favorite book?

My favorite books are NK Jennison’s The Fifth Season from the Broken Earth series and The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. Both push the boundaries of the genre and are mind-expanding. There is also something to be said about sci-fi written from diverse perspectives.

Is it safe to assume that sci-fi is your favorite genre?

Yes. But I do have a pandemic guilty pleasure. I am in the process of reading all of Agatha Christie’s books. I’ve read about 40 in the past two years.

Are you team hardcover, e-book, or audiobook?

I’m team e-book. Kindle is such a convenient way to read, especially since some of the books I read are a thousand pages and I often read four to five books at a time.

You’ve been a leader in different organizations and in different capacities over the years. What do you think is the most essential quality a leader should have?

I’m a big believer in servant leadership – empowering your team to accomplish great things and supporting them in being successful. I also believe in diverse teams. Diversity in a group, any group, leads to diverse thoughts and we all learn from each other. I like being around people smarter than me. It makes the work more interesting and more innovative. The key though is giving everybody the space to share their views.

This month is AAPI month. What does this month mean to you?

It’s an opportunity for people to understand that Asian Americans have diverse cultures. Often, there is a temptation to homogenize us as a people. But Asian culture is a large civilization. Just look at our food! Celebrating AAPI heritage month is a time for us to recognize that people are complex and nuanced. To reduce people into stereotypes is a disservice to our individuality as people. AAPI is also a time for the community to connect with one another.

Meet the rest of our Board of Directors. Join us in powering Chicago Public Library and providing critical access to programs, resources, and services for Chicagoans of all ages.