Krissy Wick | Movers & Shakers 2021–Community Builders

As Madison Public Library (MPL) director of public services, Krissy Wick not only transitioned traditional librarian roles to community engagement librarian positions, but instituted robust partnerships with the Madison community. Wick collaborated with the Madison Metropolitan School District and many others to develop the Read Up summer children’s program. More than 75 percent of participating kids maintained or increased their reading levels in the first two years.

Sidsel Bech-Petersen

CURRENT POSITION

Director of Public Services, Madison Public Library, WI

DEGREE

MLIS, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2007

FOLLOW

madisonpubliclibrary.org; cityofmadison.com/civil-rights/programs/racial-equity-social-justice-initiative/tools

Photo by Shanna Wolf

 

Connection Central

As Madison Public Library (MPL) director of public services, Krissy Wick not only transitioned traditional librarian roles to community engagement librarian positions, but instituted robust partnerships with the Madison community. Wick collaborated with the Madison Metropolitan School District and many others to develop the Read Up summer children’s program. More than 75 percent of participating kids maintained or increased their reading levels in the first two years.

In 2019, with the Dane County Library Service and MPL Foundation, Wick launched the Dream Bus, serving 10–14 neighborhoods that faced barriers to library access with library books and free Wi-Fi; in 2020 it also served as a census partner and voter registration site. Wick also connected the school district to library resources to help families most at need during the pandemic, offering space for homeless families and those wishing to connect with school representatives outside of the school day.

Wick collaborates with city departments to pilot programs and processes, saving staff time and using an equitable hiring tool to reevaluate almost every position. Improvements such as eliminating testing requirements, using phone prescreening, and broadening minimal qualifications have helped: 54 percent of MPL’s new hires since 2018 are people of color. Wick also piloted Results Madison, a data dashboard, and is overseeing the creation of a library-specific dashboard to better communicate the library’s story to funders, stakeholders, and front-line staff. She also worked with the City Clerk on voter registration, in-person absentee voting, and election-day voting at libraries, Most recently, Wick worked with the city’s Community Development Division to launch a free hotline for residents to call if they’re struggling financially. The service, launched in September 2020 and staffed by specially trained reference librarians, connects them to programs that may help. It offered more than 200 advisory sessions in two months.

Wick understands that a strong internal culture is a necessary foundation. At the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown, she had remote racial equity and social justice trainings ready for library employees, and she set up workgroups so all staff could help plan for reopening, rework current services, plan training and onboarding, and explore racial equity issues. She’s led two rounds of staff focus groups to help management better communicate with and support staff, managed regular town halls to improve communication within the organization and, when the library was asked to plan for a five percent budget reduction, crafted a response that minimized impact on staff and resulted in no layoffs.

“In 2021 and 2022, I’m excited to work with the library management team and frontline staff to examine our organizational structure,” she says, “and rebuild it to better focus on racial equity and social justice, strengthen our ability to collaborate, eliminate redundancy, and streamline processes so that we can provide the highest impact service possible.”

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