BY KATIE EDER —
Rachel Collins will be joining the Shorewood Public Library staff on February 29 as library director.
“It’s an incredible opportunity,” Collins said. “Part of the attraction is the village itself. It is clearly a huge library-loving community, a real library-supporting community … People really love their library.”
Collins will be replacing former director, Beth Carey, who served in the position for 17 years and retired on January 1.
Collins has worked for the Milwaukee Public Library system for the last 11 years. Most recently, she was a branch manager for the East Branch.
“I’ve known Rachel for almost 20 years,” said Paula Kiely, director of the Milwaukee Public Library. “She is an incredible person, a fabulous librarian and truly a leader who is coming into her own. We are going to miss her tremendously and I know she is going to do a great job for the residents of Shorewood.”
According to Mariann Maris, president of the Shorewood Library Board, the library director sets the schedule, hires staff, works to create a budget with the board.
“[The director] is really in charge of the day-to-day operation of the library,” Maris said.
Maris said the board formed a committee to conduct a nationwide search.
“Then that committee reviewed all of the applications and narrowed them down to four people, and those four people were all invited in to do a presentation and meet with the board and staff. The process was very open, it was very thorough and … the choice of library director was agreeable to all parties,” Maris said.
Collins said she did a lot of research prior to her interview.
“I knew I wanted to put time and energy into the preparation,” Collins said. “Believe it or not, I checked out a library book about interviewing … I definitely took a close look at the Shorewood website for the village as well as the library to kind of get a feeling of what the library is currently doing and what I could think of for the future.”
Maris said that this knowledge is the reason Collins made the cut.
“What impressed me the most was [Collins] had done her research about Shorewood,” Maris said. “She knew that 83% of Shorewood residents have library cards. She knew about much of what the library has done in the past and she built on that to talk about what she could bring to the position.”
Collins was born and raised in Milwaukee, and attended Rufus King high school.
“After I graduated, I moved to Seattle, Washington, where I pursued my undergraduate degree,” Collins said. “I originally thought I was going to be a marine mammal biologist … I thought that was going to be my destiny, but once I was there I got really involved with volunteering, early childhood education and ended up with a psychology degree.”
Collins also holds a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.
Collins said she is very excited to start her position and meet Shorewood residents.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know all the players, all the stakeholders from Shorewood. I think that will let me get my footing so I have a real sense of where we want to go as we move forward,” Collins said.
Not surprisingly, Collins is a huge fan of libraries.
“I love working for the public library and I now I get to see how the public library makes a difference in individual lives and in the community,” Collins said. “I’m fortunate when an individual comes up to me at the reference desk and tells me his library story. Recently, a gentleman in his mid-40s came to the desk to thank me and the library. He said he had been out of work as an accountant for some months and had been coming to the library as a place to focus on his job search and to use our Wi-Fi. He wanted to stop by to say thank you in person, because he just got a job and he felt he couldn’t have done it without the library. We only hear one or two of these stories a week, but I know there are many more we don’t hear from people and families of all ages. It’s these stories and impacts that keep me motivated and excited to lead a library.”