We are proud to highlight our members who commit their time and resources to helping Wisconsin libraries and librarians thrive through their work with the Wisconsin Library Association. Each month, we will be sharing their stories and hope you will be inspired to learn more about our programs or get involved! 

Fill out the Lead with WLA form and be connected with other change agents, leaders, and committees that can use what you have to offer.

Jen Thiele | March 2021

For which library, institution, or organization are you currently employed? If you are retired, what was your former organization?
Marinette County Library System

How many year(s) have you been a member of Wisconsin Library Association?
Over 15 years

What has been your favorite or most impactful function or event of WLA?
I love the fundraisers! But, mostly, I love the connections I've made with the members over the past 20 or so years.

How has being a member of WLA impacted you or your career?
I have really enjoyed being a part of WLA for all of the ideas and energy the members bring. I was very lucky to chair an annual conference, and take part in several other conference committees, allowing me to meet librarians from all different types of communities. Attending these events provided me with knowledge, and allowed me to present some of my research and practice-based ideas to a friendly audience. Despite the fact that I'm still terrified of public speaking and leading large armies of committee members towards a common goal, I have gotten better at it over the years with practice. I never stop being amazed at how such diverse groups work together to create such wonderful events that make us better librarians.

Do you have a library role model (in Wisconsin or elsewhere) that has provided you with inspiration or guidance? Please share a little bit about it.
There are so many individuals that have helped me over the years. Strangely enough, I started my career at an academic library in the cataloging department. I will never forget how very kind Karen Mand and Tony Laluzerne were to me, even though I repeatedly screwed up putting in the tattle tape and could never really speak the language of catalogers. I could not have gotten through all the cataloging classes I took without Tony's help, and it made me marvel at how patient some people are with train wrecks that should've stayed in public services. Lynn Derby is no longer in libraries now, but she was instrumental in teaching me how to be a small library director. She was beloved by the community, and really set a high standard of what a librarian could mean to their small town. She also taught me the importance of weeding the collection, even though I am a notoriously terrible hoarder. I would like to thank Cheryl Maxwell and Connie Seefeldt, the toughest women I know. They were both on my library board, and took a chance on hiring me even though I was very young and inexperienced at the time. Whenever I start to doubt myself, I think of all the faith they have in me, and how they are and always will be strong advocates for their library. Dr. Dietmar Wolfram was my doctoral thesis advisor at the UW-Milwaukee ischool. The process of earning a PhD is harrowing, and there were times I thought I would never make it. Dietmar has an amazing knack for giving feedback in the kindest possible way, and kept motivating me to go on, even when I felt like crying and giving up. Finally, I would like to thank all of my friends in the library world who have supported me and made me laugh so hard over the years. If not for WLA, I might've never met you, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Do you have any advice for new WLA members?
I'm a very shy person, and I normally would avoid events and conferences if I could. However, I have learned over the years that the best way to make connections is to network at low-stake (fun) conference events. If you are shy, like me, I recommend you take advantage of being paired with a more seasoned member of the organization. That way, you can go to some of the social events and slowly integrate yourself into the fold on your terms (Unlike those forced icebreakers at the beginning of some conference sessions. No thanks!). I have found that most librarians are really welcoming and open minded, looking for the new folks to collaborate with. You may not realize it yet, but they are in the field for all the same reasons you are, and you will find some great support with them.