Staff Members
nursery books

Staff Members

(photos by Bill Hamblen)
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(512) 472-1791
Staff Phone Extensions: Amanda Shaver (Volunteers): 101 • Mariela (BookSpringGo): 102 • Jill (Associate Director): 104 • Emily (Executive Director): 106 • Cynthia (BookSpringRx): 107 • Donna (Controller): 108 • Joel (BookSpringEd): 110 • Amanda Brawner (Events): 111

Emily Ball Cicchini
Executive Director

Emily balances BookSpring’s vision for the future with its strong tradition of promoting reading, spiced up with her knowledge of the workings of non-profits. At the age of four, she made an exhibit on bookmaking with her father that was displayed at the local public library and featured in the weekly newspaper. She holds a BFA and MFA and professional certificates in fundraising, web technology, and inclusive practices, and is pursuing a doctorate in organizational communication from the University of Texas Moody College of Communication. She’s a published children’s playwright and likes to garden, sew, cook, and read aloud with her family. (more)

Jill's Headshot 2016

Jill Gonzalez
Associate Director

Jill believes that BookSpring is transformative. She brings passion for the mission, program management experience and deep desire to impact the community to the table. One of her proudest days as a young person was winning the M.S. Read-a-thon by reading over 100 books. She earned a 10-speed bike and dinner with a Milwaukee Brewer, Larry Hisle. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from St. Norbert College and her master’s in Curriculum and Instruction/Language and Literacy from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a master reading teacher and has earned a certificate in non-profit leadership and management. Jill enjoys singing with various choirs, practicing yoga, reading and cooking in her time outside of BookSpring.

Donna Ellis

Donna brings more than 20 years of financial management, knowledge, and experience as an accounting manager, controller and auditor in the private and public sectors. She holds a BBA in Accounting from Texas State University and holds CPA licenses in California and Nevada. Her favorite books from childhood were ‘Miss Lollipop’s Lion’ by Judy Varga and everything by Maurice Sendak. She enjoys playing piano, guitar, singing, gardening, and making pottery.

Rachel Elliott

BookSpringRx Director

Rachel works with healthcare professionals to get books into the hands of children and families through their doctors. She spent most of her childhood between the pages of books. She did her undergrad in History and Scandinavian Studies and worked in online education at the University of Texas at Austin. She completed a Fulbright in Norway and speaks Norwegian. When she isn’t reading, she can be found scouring the internet for cute animal videos.

Joel Gross
BookSpringEd Director

Joel directs all educational programs for BookSpring.  He grew up in Dripping Springs, Texas (10 minutes from the famous Salt Lick BBQ) and attended the University of Texas.  His discovered the real joy of reading post-college and enjoys a wide range of genres, particularly short stories and new fiction.  Joel has had a diverse career with roles at The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, the United States Senate in Washington, D.C., and teaching English in Costa Rica.  In his free time he can be found playing racquetball at UT, writing short stories, and cooking new dishes that he saw on MasterChef.

Mariela Rodriguez
BookSpringGo Director

Mariela directs BookSpring’s community awareness programs. She grew up in Laredo, Texas and has a BA in Communication. Growing up, Mariela enjoyed reading the Goosebumps and The Boxcar Children series. She reaffirmed her committed to literacy during her AmeriCorps service, with Literacy First. In her spare time, Mariela enjoys kickboxing, reading graphic novels/comic books, and spending time with her family.

amanda shaver

Amanda Shaver
Community Partner Manager

Amanda organizes civic, corporate, and student group volunteer efforts for BookSpring. As a child, she fell in love with reading when her elementary librarian introduced her to the Nancy Drew series! Amanda holds a bachelor’s degree in social work and a teaching certification in English. Amanda’s hobbies include reading, traveling, and mountain biking with her husband and son.

amanda brawner

Amanda Brawner
Events Manager

Amanda is the owner of Thoroughly Polished, which provides BookSpring with event support. A graduate of Claremont McKenna College, Amanda has found a home in Austin’s non-profit sector. With a background in public relations, information, technology, political campaign fundraising, community engagement and voter database management, she brings a plethora of skills to execute the annual Read-A-Thon program. Amanda enjoys watching Kansas City professional sports of all kinds.

Lili Cantu

Lili Cantu
Facilitator, Early Childhood

Lili coordinates Parent Book Clubs and trains other educators in professional development workshops. Lili grew up in Mexico and has a love for the oral storytelling tradition that goes along with reading in the Mexican culture. As a parent, she has continued to develop this appreciation and expanded her interest in the magic of the read-aloud. Lili has a degree in Latin American Studies from Brown University and a Primary Teaching Certificate from the Association Montessori Internationale. In addition to reading, she enjoys spending time with family, traveling, photography, and scrapbooking.