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Celebrating Our Own: Women's History Month

By Chetla Jackson and Lauren Messner-Kenney on Mar 6, 2024 12:00 AM

Women’s History Month is an excellent time to commemorate the rich and varied stories of the triumphs, successes - the striving - of women nationally and globally, but it is also a great time to celebrate locally. There are so many women who help make MPL the vibrant community it is, across all areas of service. Yes, as librarians, but also as aides, custodians, techs, and administrators; in marketing, security,  outreach, business, IT – often working behind the scenes to bring our patrons the best MPL that helps people read, learn, and connect.

We would like to highlight just a few of those many, many women by celebrating their careers with MPL. This is the smallest of samples, and we truly wish we had room to celebrate everyone here – there are so many more stories worth sharing.    

Amy - 7 Years Casey - 14 Years
Librarian III Special Collections Librarian
Sarah - 16 Years Tiffany - 19 Years
Business Finance Manager    Building Services Supervisor II

What drew you to this career path?

Sarah: Some of my earliest and fondest memories take place at the library with my family. It has always felt like a sanctuary to me, and so I eagerly applied to become a Circulation Aide as soon as I turned 16. I ended up meeting my husband here, too. Suffice it to say that MPL is an enormous part of my identity!

Tiffany: Starting out I never knew the library would be my love in choosing a career path. Many people always asked me if I wanted to be a librarian. The answer was no, I just wanted to create my own path working for the City of Milwaukee.

What drew you to MPL specifically?

Amy: Well, the city was hiring librarians at a time when I didn’t have a job, I already lived here and had the credentials so it was like this impossible dream dropped into my lap and came true!  I say this because I love Milwaukee and want to see it thrive, so getting to use my skills to help people in my community make their lives better every day is truly my happy place. And getting to do it in bigger ways and smaller ones – everything from helping someone make copies to amplifying the voices and talents of wise and skilled people who are generous enough to host programs is just a straight-up gift.

Casey: I wanted a larger public library that could offer a variety of areas to work and had archival collections, and I knew I wanted to stay in the Great Lakes area, and the City of Milwaukee was a very easy choice for me. MPL just seemed like a perfect fit for me.  When I was hired, I actually began as a circulation supervisor, which I very much enjoyed, but now I am exactly where I always wanted. I love working with archival materials, making them more accessible, helping with historical research, talking about MPL’s own rich history and sharing it with the community we serve. 

Are there women in leadership who inspire you?

Casey: A few years ago, I went to a panel discussion on leadership within the City of Milwaukee.  Joan Johnson was on the panel, she was deputy director at MPL at the time.  I remember being inspired by many of the panel but especially her.  Her story of how she got to MPL and the choices she made, going where she felt she was needed.  I felt there were some similarities in my own career path. So, it was interesting and inspiring to hear her speak about her experiences and her ideas on leadership. 

Amy: I have a ton of respect for Joan Johnson. She is an inspiration because she grew up here and because she’s not afraid to show her staff how much she cares about us – not just with words – which she does and which matters – but through her willingness to be as transparent as she can. My supervisor at MATC, Camille Nicolai, is retired now, but worked her way up from being a 20-year-old library assistant to Director of Financial Aid.  Watching her do a really difficult job with consistency and integrity was absolutely inspiring.

Sarah: My leadership idol would have to be Captain Janeway from Star Trek Voyager. She's confident, resourceful, diplomatic, and has an unwavering dedication to both Starfleet principles and her personal moral compass.

Tiffany: There have been several women within MPL that have inspired me throughout the years. I’ve had women such as my former Branch Manager, the former Business and Technology Manager, the Supervisor of Circulation and the Building Services Supervisor II for Central Library have all played a role in leadership, and now mentor and support me in my current position. Each one of these ladies showed me that growth is possible. They supported me, pushed me, and showed me that I can overcome things that I may see as obstacles in both my past and current position at MPL.

Keep on celebrating! Over the course of the next month, be sure to check out our curated reading suggestions

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