Written by Dawn Tevis
Wisconsin Libraries Transforming Communities (WLTC) program provides a pathway by which public library and community teams develop and establish sustainable partnerships. These partnerships highlight the vital role libraries play within a community and the importance of community engagement. This series of 7 weekly articles is the result of the creative relationships and initiatives created by the WLTC 2020-21 cohort, libraries, and community organizations. The results of their work include a deeper level of understanding of and responsiveness to each partner’s needs and resources. Together, the groups are shaping one another’s evolution and helping to ensure Wisconsin libraries continue to serve at the forefront of equity and innovation within local communities.
Waukesha Teamwork Cultivates Deep Listening, Outward Thinking
- Kerry Pinkner: Community Engagement Manager, Waukesha Public Library
- Amanda Medina-Roddy: Board Member, School District of Waukesha
- Julie Valadez: Member, Hispanic Collaborative Network
- Adriana McCleer : WLTC Coach, Appleton Public Library
Team Waukesha’s most enduring program participation lessons arrived, not out of an adherence to a rigid plan, but from being available to an unfolding and, sometimes, unpredictable process. Ready to jump into action and solve problems, the team learned quickly to step back, listen deeply, and focus on relationship.
“Slow down, take a deep breath, and be open to what might happen,” said Waukesha Public Library Community Engagement Manager Pinkner. “It was very important to sit back and let the process happen. It’s getting us to think in a different way.”
Team Waukesha set out to present a virtual event on implicit bias and distribute a toolkit designed to help people continue conversations in their workplace and within the community. They also planned to host a book discussion. Responding to community concern about a lack of safe spaces, team members determined that through it all the library would remain a neutral place and serve as a connector for people and organizations. The pandemic, however, forced plans to be placed on hold. With the help of their coach, members learned to view the delay as an opportunity to develop outward thinking and strengthen the team’s partnership so they will be even more ready to engage their objectives when the timing is right. Pinkner credited the range of topics WLTC covered —including project management, diversity, equity, and inclusion—for making such flexibility and perseverance possible.
Team Waukesha is also passionate about serving the Latinx community and hopes to incorporate related concerns identified in their community conversations, such as the lack of healthcare resources for Spanish-speaking families, into their evolving project. For now, Pinkner emphasized the importance of timing. “Through our 18 months with WLTC we continued to grow our relationship,” she said. “We’ll continue this strong relationship once everybody’s ready, and we’ll continue to do really good things within the community. Pinker added having the chance to slow down and let everything sink in helped her realize so many pieces are naturally coming together, and she values this opportunity.
See more posts on the WI Libraries for Everyone page.