In early September, the Board of Trustees appointed Leslie M. Walker as the Interim Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Prior to this appointment, Leslie served as the Chief of Staff for the Free Library for the past three years providing management oversight for executive leadership, and was instrumental in the initiation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work through the Board of Trustees committee as well as the staff DEI committee.
We hope you enjoy getting to know our Interim Director a bit better through this special Q&A!
What are your primary objectives / goals as Interim Director?
I plan to act as a caretaker for the Library as we prepare for new leadership. During that time, my priorities are to maintain safety for our staff and our patrons during the pandemic; to focus on how we can improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion throughout our organization alongside a new DEI officer; and to create a better structure for our employees and departments that will enable better communication, strategies, and careers for our staff.
What do you want patrons to know about how the Free Library is serving the community during the pandemic?
The Free Library is here for you! Our staff has talked so much about new and ongoing ways to serve our patrons in these times, especially recognizing that not everyone has internet access. We really want to try to find every possible way to connect with our patrons, whether that’s through streaming media or our online databases, contactless pickup of books and DVDs, or our telephone helpline.
What is your favorite thing about working at the Free Library?
The people! The staff is fantastic. I’ve worked with the Library in many ways throughout my whole non-profit career; it’s been a 25-year love affair with the Free Library and the people who work here!
What is your neighborhood library and what do you love about it?
I’m in between Overbrook Park and Wynnefield libraries. Because I crochet, I was struck when I learned that Wynnefield has a croquet group! They had a big program one year in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and had folks in there crocheting and knitting items that they then donated to those in need. I couldn’t participate in the activity due to a prior commitment, but I donated scarves I’d previously made during the program before going to my other event.
Do you have a favorite Free Library memory?
I have two! Last December I did a storytime at Walnut Street West Library. I enjoyed the children watching intently and getting closer and closer to me as I read the book. It reminded me of doing storytimes when I was a preschool teacher earlier in my career. My ultimate favorite is cooking with kids in the Culinary Literacy Center, which I’ve done twice a year since I came to the Free Library. These are two of my very best memories.
What are you currently reading?
When God Winks: How the Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life by SQuire Rushnell. It was a gift from a board member, and I’m really enjoying it!
What drew you to work for the Free Library?
The long collaborative relationship I’ve had with the people who work here. There were two places I always wanted to work in my career and I have been so lucky to work at both of them. One was the Please Touch Museum and the other was the Free Library. How lucky is that!
What is one Free Library resource that you wish more people knew about?
The Headshots! Our Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC) offers a free, professional headshot service (which will resume when COVID-19 guidelines allow). When I needed a headshot, I knew right where to go. I’ve told so many people about this over the years. You can even see the photo taken right here in this blog!
Do you have a favorite librarian or other Free Library staff member at your neighborhood library you think we should shine a spotlight on? Let us know in the comments!