Leslie M. Walker Named Interim Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia

By Administrator RSS Fri, September 4, 2020

The Board of Trustees of the Free Library of Philadelphia is pleased to announce the appointment of Leslie M. Walker as the Interim Director of the Free Library. 

This appointment comes after a month-long search process conducted by a committee of Free Library staff, Trustee members, Foundation Board members, and a City representative. Walker was recommended to the full Board of Trustees and received unanimous approval. 

"At this time, the Free Library of Philadelphia needs a leader who can listen and hear the concerns of staff, can ensure continued operations of the Library with a focus on safety, and can bring the Free Library community together. We are pleased to present Leslie Walker as this leader," said Pamela Dembe, Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Leslie holds a BA in Urban Studies and Sociology from Rutgers and a Master of Science in Training and Organizational Development from Saint Joseph’s University.

Walker has served as the Chief of Staff for the Free Library for the past three years. Before that, she gained a wealth of experience in the nonprofit sector across the Philadelphia region. Her commitment to serving communities furthest from opportunity is clear from her work in children’s services at such organizations as Germantown Settlement, Tabor Children’s Services, and Philadelphia Safe and Sound. Her experience in community service and development has been honed over her career and includes running community impact projects for On the Table Philly, the Viola Alley Connector Project, and most recently as Vice President for Community Learning and Visitor Experience and Programs at the Please Touch Museum. At the Please Touch Museum, Walker also developed the managerial and operational skills she brought with her to the Free Library when she joined in March of 2017. 

I am honored to have been named Interim Director, and I look forward to working with staff to ensure we focus on the health and safety of our staff and everyone in this city who relies on the Library for all of the vital resources we provide, while viewing all of our work through a lens of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Walker said. This is a new chapter for the Library and I will move forward with great deliberation and transparency.

As Chief of Staff, Walker was instrumental in the initiation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work through the Board of Trustees committee as well as the staff DEI committee. Leslie represents the Library on the City of Philadelphia’s Racial Equity and HR Policy teams. She provided management oversight for executive leadership, including communications, customer service, and the coordination and facilitation of relations across Library divisions and City Administration.

In July, Walker ably stepped into the role of Emergency Interim Director of the Free Library. Since doing so, she has spent time listening in order to begin a healing process. She visits multiple neighborhood libraries weekly and is managing and directing Library operations, including the opening of libraries to the public with a priority on the safety of staff and patrons. She is working to establish Student Access Centers in concert with the School District of Philadelphia and City Administration, while continuing to work with the DEI consultancy group, DiverseForce.

Walker will serve until the appointment of a permanent Director. A nation-wide search is currently underway and is anticipated to take approximately six months to a year.


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Why not just keep Leslie Walker as the interim director. Make sure she has all the training she needs ( doesn't sound like she need any) and use her as the person your seeking.
Carla Stanley - West Philly
Friday, September 11, 2020

After many years of discrimination & accusations of systemic racism, it is very satisfying & also a relief that an intelligent Black Woman with inside knowledge of the workings of our extensive community library system has been promoted & elevated, taking the reins & primary stewardship seat & job as the Tier 1 Executive Director of the FLP. Think Philadelphia is definitely headed in the correct direction & the executive staff promotion of Leslie Walker as 'Interim Director', perhaps permanent FLP Director, is a very positive reflection of the changes Philly continues to undergo.
Samuel Yates - Port Richmond Philadelphia
Monday, September 14, 2020

Leslie Walker is a very intelligent and professional women with the credential to do the job I feel like the search I over keep Leslie Walker.
Wendy Blackwell - Philadelphia
Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Why not add free admittance along with the paid fees to Culinary Literacy Zoom classes? (Participants are muted, 20 muted participants sound the same as 80) Requiring a fee of $15 leaves out those unable to pay during a Pandemic. Once in a while you waive fees with proof of an access card, why? Not all vulnerable are able to get an access card especially in short term challenges like a "Pandemic".
Judy Nelson, MSS, CP LCSW
Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Hi, Judy- thank you so much for your feedback regarding our evening culinary classes. While we do want to keep class sizes limited to ensure everyone is on pace during the sessions, I think you make a great point about opening up more complimentary tickets. We reserve 25% of tickets for all classes for those who are SNAP-eligible, but I will review how we can make the classes even more inclusive. Stay tuned, and please email kitchen@freelibrary.org if you'd like to discuss further!
Caity R. - Culinary Literacy Center
Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The challenges to providing adequate Library Services for an Urban community of Millions in the face of a pandemic and Climate Catastrophe is not for the weak of heart. Not only should Mrs. Leslie Walker be welcomed and affirmed as a vital, competent interim Director who has proven her dedication to this Organization. She has multiple years experience already invested in this organization, she is deeply familiar with where we have been, has a vision for our future and it's absolutely essential that we retain her at all costs. No one else will do. This is not like a game of Chess where you go looking for a different rook, bishop, or Knight. She is our Queen and we must keep her at all costs. Perhaps there are some Other pieces of the team or executive branch which need swapping out but I assure the community it is not our newest Director. Congratulations L.M. Walker!
RogueBookPigeon - Puxatawney
Friday, September 18, 2020