Manitowoc Public Library director of youth services resigns

Julia Lee

The following article was submitted by Julia Lee, manager of youth services at the Manitowoc Public Library.

Hello friends!

My name is Julia Lee and I have been the manager of youth services at the Manitowoc Public Library for five years. I vividly remember my first day, May 1, 2017. I was freezing. I was traveling from Mankato, Minnesota, where the unusually warm weather had already brought temperatures of 80 degrees. Naturally, I had packed all my summer clothes to take with me to my new job in my home country. It must have been warmer there than in Minnesota! I showed up in capris and sandals on the first day – and that’s when I really learned the meaning of “Cooler by the Lake!”

Over the next five years, I learned so much more about the community, the beautiful lake shores, and the library (especially the wonderful staff!). I told people I won the job lottery and I really meant it. With the best team of people I could have hoped for, we reshaped what youth services means to the Manitowoc Public Library to make it a more welcoming and inclusive place where everyone can come and enjoy an hour storytelling, a fun program or just finding that perfect place. book.

Under the leadership of former CEO, Kristin Stoeger, our ideas were encouraged and staff were inspired to try new things. We quickly began planning big and beloved community events, such as our popular Touch the trucks and Trunk-or-Treat, which now regularly attract more than 1,000 people. Family activity evenings Tuesdays turned into core programs such as Reading to Certified Therapy Dogs, Family Prom, Kitty Parties with the Lakeshore Humane Society, Unicorn Parties, and classes hosted by Glaze & Paint, to name a few. A few years later, we added new things to our circulating collection: ukuleles and board games! Last year we added video games to circulation.

The biggest challenge I have faced in my career came in March 2020 when we had to close our doors due to the global pandemic. The world was in disarray and no one knew what was to come. In these dark times, staff at the Manitowoc Public Library cared about one thing only: to continue to serve the community in any way possible. We’ve overhauled our service models to make curbside pickup possible. A few months later, we had our very first virtual program.

Over the next year, youth staff would host regular virtual field trips to provide families with a way to explore their communities while we had to stay away. The community loved the field trips! What few people have seen is the staff’s dedication to learning and mastering iMovie so that we can produce our own quality videos. Finally, we started offering Grab & Go activities so families can do something together at home. It was a time of great stress, but also a time of innovation, creativity and teamwork. I have never been so proud.

Through it all, the Library continues to grow and evolve to meet the needs of the community. Despite the ups and downs of the years, the library is a true community place for everyone. The library welcomes all, has resources for all and represents all ideas. It is a place of intellectual freedom and where your right to read is respected by the dedicated library staff. It’s a place where everyone has a voice, not just the loudest or the majority. She grows and evolves with her community, and I know she will continue to do so as long as she serves Manitowoc and the surrounding communities.

It’s hard to believe that my term as head of youth services is coming to an end: as of May 20, I will no longer be at the wheel of youth services. But I know that the wonderful management team and extraordinary staff at the Manitowoc Public Library will continue to work, grow and adapt to meet the needs of our diverse community. I would like to thank all the staff for being the best people to work with and the families for entrusting me with the provision of services to their children and adolescents.

Keep reading!

About the author