From “The Life” to Teen Librarian, Will Glenn Is Working to Give Young People Direction: Shaping Lives

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Will Glenn is the Madison Public Library system’s first African American male teen librarian.

Part 2 of 2

By Jonathan Gramling

Will Glenn, the teen librarian at the Goodman South Library, has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of human nature since growing up in the inner-city of Milwaukee. Glenn is very friendly as we conduct the interview at Penn Park. In the 10 years I’ve known him, I can’t remember a time when Glenn didn’t have a cheerful disposition, like he was grateful just to be alive. It’s a disposition that many with his background would never have.

Through work at the UW-Madison PEOPLE Program and mentoring from Enis Ragland who was a deputy Madison mayor at the time, Glenn ended up working

at the Meadowood Community Center and sitting on the Madison Public Library board. After a meeting, Glenn was approached about working for the Madison Public Library.

“Right at that moment, I told her, ‘I don’t know,’” Glenn recalled. “’Working at the library is probably the corniest thing ever to me.’ I didn’t know anything about it except for my library, so I didn’t understand any of that. After that conversation, I thought about it. The whole goal was to try to get to Alice [the Meadowood librarian] and work on the library side so that we would have the center and the library working together. But Alice didn’t have a 100 percent allotment for me. So Ms. Janetta [the Goodman South librarian] scooped me up. That’s how I got to Goodman South Library. Ms. Janetta was in the interview too. And it was a pool. So once Alice didn’t have a 100 percent allotment, Ms. Janetta did at Goodman and she offered me the position to be the first African American male library assistant and that’s how that journey started. I didn’t understand what a library assistant was. I didn’t come from the library world. I didn’t know any of it. Once I got to the library, a lot of the people at Goodman really, really made me feel comfortable in that world.”

Working at the library did have its challenges because race follows you everywhere. An incident at the library was a microcosm for race relations in America.

“There was an older white man who called me a monkey,” Glenn recalled. “I was separating him and an older African American man. They were going back and forth, two grumpy old men inside the library. He called me a monkey and then he called the police from his cellphone. The police got there and asked, ‘Who’s in charge.’ And everyone said, ‘He is,’ indicating me. The librarians had left and I was the 100 percent who was left. When they got there, we were like, ‘We didn’t call the police.’ He came from the back. And I was like, ‘Oh, you called the police.’ And the police were like, ‘What do you want us to do?’ The older African American gentleman had gone to the back and sat down. I said, ‘I was going to let you chill, but now you called the police and something has to happen. You have to go.’ He berated me and said, ‘You’re a spineless jellyfish. You can’t keep the library quiet.’ I said, ‘You just said I can’t keep the library quiet and you called the police. You have to leave.’ I bagged him.”

About two years in, Glenn was promoted to youth services library assistant, which allowed him to operate programs for youth at the library.

“Janetta came to me and said, ‘Brother Will, seem like you are good with these kids and the kids gravitate to you,’” Glenn said. “’I want you to do some things with the kids.’ That’s when I started doing the Tween and Teen Days at the library and supporting programs. At that time, library assistants weren’t running programs. I was one of the only library assistants who was able to run programs. I was running my programs.”

After about four years, Goodman South didn’t have the funds to maintain Glenn at 1`00 percent, so while doing contract work for the library, he also hooked up with MMSD.

“I was working with MMSD,” Glenn said. “We had a Youth Voice Council. We were working with the kids and helping them learn how to advocate for themselves and learn what their voice is. Doing all of that, I was still doing the Lego Club and the Teen Times at the library. One day, I came to the library and everyone was jumping up and down and were excited. They told me the mayor had given funds to Warner Park to get an assistant and the Goodman South Library to get the teen librarian. That’s why I did a lot of programming because at the time, there wasn’t an in-house teen librarian at Goodman South.”

Glenn became the first African American male teen librarian. As the teen librarian, Glenn feels that not only is it his responsibility to promote literacy and a love of reading, but also to create community where people can take the time to succeed and not merely survive.

“I believe our community has lost the humanist piece,” Glenn emphasized. “During my times of doing bad, it’s easier to rob someone if I don’t know anything about you and you are just a mark as opposed to I know you Jon and I don’t know you from the back though and I get ready to rob you and it’s like, ‘Damn, it’s Jon. I can’t really rob Jon. That’s my guy.’ It’s a big difference. And people nowadays don’t really understand that. And that’s why a lot of things in our world are happening now because we’ve lost the ability to shake a hand and make a friend. Now it’s either hustle and bustle or the people who are marginalized are so far behind, they are trying to catch up. It’s hard for them to catch up when either they can’t get a hand to pull up or they don’t have the means or the ability to understand what can get them to catch up. So what’s the easiest way for them to do that? Back to the initial piece. They are surviving. ‘I only know how to survive.’ What is an animal going to do if they can’t eat? They go hunt. Individuals who are put in these different situations, they are going to do what’s best for them, their tribe, their family or their clan and they go hunt. I want to bring everyone together so that we can now identify the villagers.”

An example of Glenn’s vision was the It Takes a Village Community Service Fair held June 29th in Penn Park.

“It was comprised of a lot of different activities,” Glenn said. “Jesse and the Bubbler were right there. We had a story time tellers. I have a great list of storytellers that I think the community would love and I love. They were great. And the whole thing is just bringing together the community under the same roof and wrapping our arms around kids and their families. There was a vaccination clinic there with vaccines for kids 12-years-old and up. We brought together everyone including the MPD, the fire department, anyone who helps this community, I wanted to bring them all together in a low risk, high reward situation.”

Glenn is a bridge between two worlds. He can help African American youth explore different worlds and pathways that may lead to success, including the world of literacy. And he can help the library enter the world where the youth live to better provide services that are relevant to the youth and will lead to their ultimate success. That appears to be Glenn’s vision as a teen librarian. It takes a strong bridge to bring together two worlds. Will Glenn has carried the load before.

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Summer Energy-Saving Tips

From Madison Gas and Electric Company (MGE)

The summer heat can lead to an excess demand on our energy supply. When we use less energy, there's less need to generate electricity. By managing our energy use, we can help control energy costs and reduce carbon emissions as we work together to achieve net-zero carbon electricity by 2050.

10 Steps to Save Energy

  1. Use a qualified contractor to professionally maintain your central air at least every two years. And, be sure to clean leaves and grass clippings off your outdoor unit.
  2. Run major appliances before 10 a.m. and after 9 p.m. or on weekends. This helps lower the demand for power during peak times.
  3. Set your thermostat as high as is comfortable, preferably 78°F or higher when you are home and up to 85°F when you are away. If you don't already have one, consider upgrading to a smart thermostat—Wi-Fi connected thermostats can adjust temperatures automatically based on your routine, saving energy almost effortlessly!
  4. Swap your lightbulbs with LEDs, which use up to 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last 15 to 25 times longer.
  5. Unplug your phone chargers, printers, computers and other electronic equipment when you are not using them. These devices can account for 5 to 10% of your total energy use.
  6. Be sure to turn off fans when no one is in the room—fans cool people, not rooms.
  7. Seal around your window air conditioner so cool air cannot escape. If you need to purchase a new unit, consider a Wi-Fi window air conditioner—you can control them remotely with smartphone apps, which allow you to adjust the temperature while you're away.
  1. Keep your window coverings closed to block out direct sunlight during the day.
  2. Run full loads in your washer and dryer to cut down on excess energy usage.
  3. Keep your water heater temperature set at 120ºF, and if you go on vacation, remember to switch it to vacation mode.

MGE is available to provide tips and answer your questions about saving energy. Contact MGE's energy experts by email at AskExperts@mge.com or by calling (608) 252-7117 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.