Meet the Team
The team at the heart of Open Books are energetic, entrepreneurial, and just slightly eccentric book-lovers from a wide span of backgrounds and with a vast spectrum of interests. Collectively, we have decades of experience in business, education, retail, development, law, finance, writing, and pursuits of all kinds.
- Executive, Finance, & Operations
- Marketing & Development
- Teaching Artists
- Board of Directors
Executive, Finance, & Operations
Eric Johnson joined Open Books as Executive Director in November 2018. Eric most recently served as the Senior Director of Philanthropic Partnerships with Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL), a national organization focused on closing the academic achievement gap among pre-K–8th grade students through evidence-based, out-of-school-time programs. Prior to BELL, he served as the Director of Development and Capacity at the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS), Chief Development Officer at the Golden Apple Foundation, and the Director of Development and Communication for the Inner-City Teaching Corps, now known as the Accelerate Institute.
Eric received his B.A. in Sociology at the University of Virginia, his M.S. in Learning & Organizational Change at Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy, and his Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) credential. He lives in the Roscoe Village neighborhood of Chicago with his wife, Anissa, and two daughters, Ella and Isla.
Ryan has spent the last two decades immersed in the used book world, and is very excited to be part of the Open Books team. He grew up in New Jersey and North Carolina, coming to the great Midwest to attend the University of Chicago. While there he tried to read everything that was assigned (seemingly impossible), somehow graduated, and today continues to try to read everything he is interested in (definitely impossible). When he’s not meandering through the store or opening random boxes in the warehouse, you can find him in his basement in Portage Park building furniture, searching for odd records, hanging out with his wife, son, and dog, or playing 16” softball.
Following a brief stint in investment banking/private equity, Krystle Kim has spent over a decade working in the nonprofit world. She has extensive experience in the charter school space, most recently helping to open Great Lakes Academy, a school on the Southeast side of Chicago, and has also served as a consultant for various non-profits serving kids and youth in Chicago and beyond. She is passionate about literacy and education and loves spending her time and leveraging expertise in finance/operations/strategy to help nonprofits run just a little bit better so they can broaden and deepen their impact. Krystle earned an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a joint BA in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences and Economics. She is a proud mom of two little girls who she thinks will one day change the world.
Marketing & Development
Alison grew up in the west suburbs of Chicago, after which she attended Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN. After graduating with a BA in History and an ultimate frisbee obsession, she made her way back to Chicago to serve as an AmeriCorps member at Bowen High School. After two years serving as a college access coach, she decided she wanted to help other people get connected to volunteer opportunities and serve with students here in Chicago. She is very excited to be part of the team here at Open Books!
Curtis is an Illinois-native who began his course with Open Books as a Reading Buddy at McCutcheon Elementary school. With a background in Biology, but a love for literacy, he began to speak the gospel of Open Books programs to anyone that would listen. This eventually earned him a place at the associate board table and, consequently, a spot on the Executive Committee serving as Chair. He continues to spread the word about Open Books as an executive member of the staff. You can still see him walking around neighborhoods and events around Chicago, wearing an Open Books t-shirt and talking about the bookstore and other programs to anyone who gives him the time of day!
Chelsea comes to Open Books with a background in positive youth development and organizing work across the non-profit field in Chicago. Chelsea holds a bachelor’s degree in History and Russian studies from Illinois Wesleyan University and a Master’s Degree in Museum and Exhibition Studies with a focus on community engagement from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is also the co-founder of the Lawndale Pop-Up Spot, a community museum in a shipping container in a garden in North Lawndale. Chelsea lives in North Center with her 16 month old son, her husband, and several cats.
Atti began as an Open Books literacy intern, serving as a Summer Buddies site leader in the summer of 2013. After gaining valuable work experience in other fields, she made her way back to our team as a Teaching Artist for both Creative Writing Workshops and ReadThenWrite during the 2015-2016 school year. Atti‘s familiarity with all of Open Books programing coupled with her extensive background as a swim coach makes her a natural leader in the classroom. She has been working on curriculum revision for our workshops, and will be the full-time coordinator for Creative Writing Workshops.
Valeria was born and raised in Pilsen, she grew up volunteering and working in the Community of as a mentor and coordinator assistant. She obtained an Associate in Arts degree from Chicago Community Colleges in 2015. While initially continuing school to pursue a career in music education she was able to reconnect with her passion for books and graduated with a Bachelors degree in English Literature from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2018. Since then she continues to nurture her love of music, by sharing videos of herself singing on her Ukulele, and working on her goals which are to make a difference in her community and to finish writing her very first Latino Science Fiction novel.
Ivana Jarmon is a Black Creative woman born & raised in Chicago. She has a passion for literacy, travel and art. She recently graduated with a BA in Creative Writing with a concentration in fiction. Ivana comes to Open Books with a background in the library field which she spent several years learning the ins and outs of. With her love for art she spends her free time making art through photography and working on her novel (but not really because writing is hard so she thinks about writing her novel instead of actually writing it). Ivana is the mother of one fur child cat named Meadow…but no one calls her that She prefers Mistress Kitty.
Paula Santos is an arts and culture leader and educator who has devoted the last 15 years of her career to making non-profits, museums, and other cultural organizations more equitable. She has worked at major cultural institutions in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, including Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Most recently she was Senior Manager of Learning and Engagement at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art in Chicago. Paula is also a founding member of the Museum Workers Relief Fund, a mutual aid fund that has raised over $120,000 for museum workers adversely affected by Covid-19.
Nancy grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago and earned a dual degree in both general management and marketing from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Motivated by inventive problem solving and experiential learning, Nancy has always collected a wide array of knowledge and contributed it back to their communities. Organizing information systems and relationship building come familiar to the current Little Village resident after four years at the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library and briefly as a marketing manager for a benefit corporation. Eager to connect the students and creatives of Chicago, Nancy is appreciative of the fresh start with Open Books.
Stores - Open Books Pilsen
Chris was born in Denver, but grew up outside of Detroit. After living in Ann Arbor while completing his BS in philosophy (with a minor in literature) at Eastern Michigan University, he moved to Chicago in the fall of 2001. His life in the book business began with part-time work while in college and has continued to this day, almost uninterrupted. When not managing the Pilsen store and warehouse, he can be found running tables at a nearby pool hall or futilely trying to catch up on all of the books that he's intended to get to over the last 25 years.
Jeremy (AKA the Book Monster) has been volunteering with Open Books since 2012 and has been a staff member since 2015. He is thrilled to have a job where he can spend his days with books and forward the cause of literacy. When he is not at work he is either reading science fiction, gardening, or re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In his three years in Chicago, Steve has seen his hairline recede, the bounds of the city contract (figuratively speaking), and the sanity of the country erode. It seems only his aims, of which he was entirely absent at the outset, have stood undiminished over this time. Of course, that’s hardly the case. In our age, every week sees the arrival of more promo codes, tentpole sequels and haute hamburgers. Steve monitors these developments with great interest, as they are no doubt testaments to the fact that now more than ever, we live in the best of times.
Marlo holds an MFA in Studio Art from the University of Illinois at Chicago and is a practicing writer originally from the suburbs of Chicago. She has previously worked as an academic editor, and is currently the Managing Editor of Chicago Artists Writers, a review publication focused covering smaller, overlooked exhibitions and projects in Chicago. She is always excited to talk to people about books and writing. As the Donation Coordinator, she enjoys fostering connections between Open Books and other organizations, companies, and individuals who are passionate about literacy.
Veronica is a visual artist, lover of secondhand clothing, and ardent morning person. She grew up in Skokie, IL and graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Film and Photography. After college she worked in the service industry in Chicago for several formative years of her life that led her to books! In between making art and walks with her pup, Concha, she reads for joy and spreads OpenBooks goodness whenever she can.
Stores - Open Books West Loop
Zylon graduated with a major in English and minor in linguistics from SUNY New Paltz in 2013. He spent his last two years working at his college’s library. A few weeks after graduating, he moved to Chicago, transitioning from a world where he was literally and figuratively immersed in books to a new city, where his Ikea bookshelf served as his only connection to the literary world. He missed working at the library and talking to patrons and the environment of books, so when he found out about a volunteer opportunity with Open Books he was ecstatic to get started.
Joey grew up in Pasadena, California, raised on a steady diet of Goosebumps books and sub-par Adam Sandler comedies. After graduating from Oberlin College with a BA in cinema studies, he moved to Chicago without much of a plan or any friends in the city. He quickly found a second home in Open Books and a rekindled love of reading after years of not having time to read for pleasure in college, and he's beyond thrilled to be able to share that passion with other book-lovers at the West Loop store.
Kelsey grew up in Rockford, IL and completed a bachelor's in Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's in Psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Once out of school, she was (finally) able to prioritize reading for fun while also working in the service industry in Chicago. Throughout all of her experiences, reading has been a constant love. Now she is able to completely engage with the world of books while supporting access to books and literacy programming in the Chicago community.
Peter was born in Chicago, and but for a few satellite educational efforts has lived in and around the city his entire life. Before and for a long time after eventually graduating from Columbia College he worked in retail logistics, organizing things and getting them to the people who wanted or needed them. At some point menaced by the many, many books he’d (mostly) read and (often) loved, he began donating the overstock to Open Books, eventually doing so at the Pilsen warehouse, the glorious sight and mission of which inspired the thought, 'This is a place for me.' He has volunteered in the warehouse and store ever since, and is now honored to work-work at the West Loop location, where he will occasionally slow down enough to enjoy the wonderful books flowing through the space, and the customers who so clearly love being there.
William is a fourth-year Comparative Literature major at the University of Chicago and is excited to (re)join the Open Books team! He previously interned at Open Books in the summer of 2019 with Publishing Academy and Reading Buddies. In the meantime, he has worked directly with detained folks in Cook County Jail through creative writing workshops, as well as with the non-profit Exoneration Project to free those incarcerated with wrongful convictions. If you catch him in the bookstore, feel free to talk with him about prison literature, sports (particularly baseball and even more particularly the White Sox), HBO television series (think SATC and the Sopranos), and, of course, books!