Greg Mickells (pronounced Michaels), the new director of the Madison Public Library, will be visiting each library branch as he embarks on his duties. Mickells moved here from Lincoln, Neb., and has been on the job about a week. On Sept. 12, Mickells visited the Goodman South Madison Branch Library, got a tour of the 2-year-old facility, and met many patrons and staff.
A mother with her young daughter spoke the feelings of many when she assured Mickells that “this is a very nice place; everybody’s very helpful.” Her comment triggered the memory of a library assistant standing nearby, who recalled a delightful comment she’d once heard from a child about her new library card: “I had no idea! A library card is a very powerful thing!”
The University of Wisconsin Odyssey Project, a humanities course for people who face economic barriers to higher education, was meeting that evening, and many students, grads, and staff introduced themselves to Mickells, who seemed to be enjoying each interaction. Odyssey Project writing coach Marshall Cook welcomed Mickells with: “This library system is fantastic!”
A patron told him how much she appreciated having access to a computer through the library, “especially if you don’t have one at home,” she said.
In addition to the Odyssey Project, which is embarking on its 10th year of collaboration with the South Madison Branch Library, this library also does program collaboration with UW Space Place and many other entities. Many Literacy Network tutors and learners meet there in private tutoring rooms. “I always appreciate library collaborations and partnerships,” Mickells said.
Librarian Chris Wagner gave the new director a tour.. A highlight in the expansive, comfortable children’s area was the Mae Mitchell collection of books for children and youth, established by Mitchell’s family to honor one of the earlier African American residents of Madison. “In any library collection, nine out of 10 people depicted in the books will be White people,” Wagner said. Mickells agreed that something like the Mae Mitchell collection is a good way to address this problem.
“People go out of their way to come here to use our fairly large Spanish-language section,” Wagner explained. Mickells asked a patron if she felt the collection was adequate, and she indicated that it was. Mickells also asked if this branch had Spanish-speaking librarians, which it does. The branch also has books and movies in Hmong and just recently acquired a few children’s books in Nepalese.
Mickells has already visited the Monroe Street Branch and will be visiting each of the other branches through October. Contact your favorite library to find out when you can meet Madison Public Library’s new director and tell him your dreams for our wonderful library system.