Maile McGrew-Fredé | Movers & Shakers 2019 – Advocates

When Maile McGrew-Fredé took a part-time position in 2005 as director of the Embudo Valley Library in rural Dixon, NM, she “got a crash course in library as local hub or root system,” she says. That core value, and the recognition that there were many gaps in her knowledge, led her to library school. More than a decade later, McGrew-Fredé still believes that libraries “are both an expression of, and a force for, shaping community.” She put her convictions into practice as community engagement and outreach librarian at Santa Cruz Public Libraries, where she worked from 2012 to 2018.

Maile McGrew-Frede

PREVIOUS POSITION

Librarian, Community Engagement & Outreach, Santa Cruz Public Libraries, CA

DEGREE

MA, LIS, University of Arizona, 2011; MFA, School of Visual Arts, New York, 2001

FOLLOW

santacruzpl.org

Photo ©2018 Annie K. Rowland

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Rooted in Community

When Maile McGrew-Fredé took a part-time position in 2005 as director of the Embudo Valley Library in rural Dixon, NM, she “got a crash course in library as local hub or root system,” she says. That core value, and the recognition that there were many gaps in her knowledge, led her to library school. More than a decade later, McGrew-Fredé still believes that libraries “are both an expression of, and a force for, shaping community.” She put her convictions into practice as community engagement and outreach librarian at Santa Cruz Public Libraries (SCPL), where she worked from 2012 to 2018.

“I felt we ought to be able to do better by our patrons experiencing homelessness than enduring, ignoring, regulating, or suspending them,” says McGrew-Fredé. She began by talking to folks waiting on line for the downtown branch to open, asking them what a library program they designed would do for them personally. Many of the answers she got had nothing to do with homelessness or housing but with having “freedom of choice, agency, and empowerment,” she says.

In 2015, those outdoor conversations, known as Coffee Talk, led to Working Together that same year, a program for Coffee Talk participants to work with community nonprofits, social service providers, or reference librarians to obtain housing, health and wellness assistance, job prep, a driver’s license, and more. The program also offers free printing and a free phone call. “The idea is to allow the patron to decide what to work toward,” says McGrew-Fredé, who gives credit to colleague Jesse Silva for being “alongside me…from the beginning.”

Between January and December 2018, Coffee Talk hosted 1,460 visits. “Although it wasn’t an outcome I had thought about in the beginning, participants often thanked us simply for being there each week…treating people with compassion and respect,” McGrew-Fredé says.

Another outcome is that SCPL was invited to become a formal partner in the county’s SmartPath to Housing and Health initiative in 2018, giving librarians direct access to assess and place individuals on the county’s housing waiting list.

“Maile has developed programming that…addresses some of the deepest issues in our community,” says SCPL communications manager Diane Cowen. “[She] has demonstrated how libraries [can] be part of collective impact models working to improve our communities.”

McGrew-Fredé is now taking a much-deserved break to ponder her next endeavor and, she says, “to rekindle a creative and hopeful sense of purpose.”

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