University of Wisconsin–Madison

Lead the Way: Libraries at the Heart of Community Engagement

Lead the Way will take place virtually from November 16-17, 2020.

We hope you join us for inspiring virtual presentations from library leaders, as well as  interactive conversations with your colleagues around the country!

Individuals registered for the conference should have received an email containing access details during the week of Nov. 9 from Meredith Lowe. If you did not receive this email and you are registered, email for assistance.



Post-conference Workshop

Lead the Way is supported by the WI Department of Public Instruction

Conference Highlights

Mary Davis Fournier

Opening Keynote Address

Not-so-secret Agents of Change: Library Workers Leading the Way in Community Engagement

Like clandestine superheroes, library workers across the country are taking their work out into the community to foster change. By mobilizing coalitions to tackle important local issues; seeking out and listening to often-unheard voices; and quietly subverting the status quo of what a library can and should do, library workers are improving communities and improving lives – and that’s just the beginning. How can even more library staff learn from existing community engagement work and build upon the momentum? As director of Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC), a national American Library Association initiative that creates and shares free community engagement and dialogue resources and training, Mary Davis Fournier has supported and celebrated this transformational shift in libraries. In her 25 years of leadership work with libraries and literary organizations, Fournier has spearheaded dozens of groundbreaking projects that have paved the way for innovation in the field, including Libraries Transforming Communities, the National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment (NILPPA), Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion, and the first “One Book” resource, Planning Your Community-Wide Read. She is currently working on a book, Act, Listen, Empower: Grounding Your Library Work in Community Engagement, which will be published in 2020 by ALA Editions.


Deborah Althoff Will
Cheri Neal

Closing Keynote Address

Be Positive. Be Productive. Be Ready to Lead the Way!

Implementing Community Change

Leading the Way takes a courageous heart. It also takes building a community of like-minded, positive people.  Cheri Neal, Zion Township Supervisor, and Deborah Althoff Will, IMC Coordinator at Zion-Benton Township High School, have worked to bring libraries and community partnerships together to implement deep and long-lasting community change in the Zion-Benton community.  They have collaborated on multiple projects including building Little Free Libraries, book clubs, 5K Runs, community spelling bees, substance abuse prevention groups, and diversity and equity initiatives.  How did this partnership develop and why does it work?  With a focus on aligning library goals to wider community concerns, they have created positive partnerships that reap benefits for all stakeholders.   They will focus on how to align goals, build relationships, communicate the scope and importance of library programs to the larger community, develop an action plan to implement partnerships, and hold crucial conversations to facilitate opportunity rather than failure. They share both funny and frustrating stories about their collaboration process and provide practical solutions for you as you move forward to develop your own unique community engagement initiatives. 

Post-Conference Workshop [FULL, waitlist is open. Use register online button to join waitlist.]

Improving Community Engagement through Approachable Research

Cost: $50.00 | Capacity: 30 participants

Libraries face the daunting task of accurately understanding the community they serve. What is essential, how does the community use services, and what could libraries do better? This workshop highlights three successful scenarios of user research any library can implement to help inform decision making and strategic planning.

Through examples and interactive activities, come away ready to implement:

  • Conducting a Community Survey – Gain vital information from users and non-users
  • Executing User Experience and Card Sorting Interviews – Understand how to create more accessible and inclusive products by learning how users interact
  • Researching an Environmental Scan – Use publicly available data like census and local government resources to get insights on how to meet the needs of the community
Kiel Cross

The workshop shares plans, successes, and failures to assist other libraries in researching their community with minimal budget and time. Supplemental materials provided.

About the Presenter:

Kiel Cross is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at Palatine Library District. He recently earned an M.S. in Communications from Purdue University and earned a B.A. in Communications Management from Judson University. In 2019, Kiel received the Marketer of the Year Award from Library Journal for his work on a successful Library referendum. He has presented at the Wisconsin-Illinois Innovative Users Group regional conference and Illinois Library Associations’ Annual Conference. Kiel is an avid fan of graphic novels and science fiction and lives with his fiancé Julianne and their award-winning cat, Bob, in Palatine, Illinois.

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Questions? Contact Anna Palmer or Meredith Lowe