Journal Times staff
RACINE — When Nick Demske started showing up at the Racine Public Library 15 years ago, he was unemployed and looking for a warm place to fill out job applications.
A staff member paid attention and added a request for a new traffic opening to the Demske stack.
In March 2007, Demske answered the phone to hear the good news that he had gotten the job. He refers to it as a “founding moment”.
“To some degree, I’m sort of a living library success story,” Demske said.
From that time until now, he has worked to emphasize equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), as well as anti-racism, in his various roles at the library.
And these will remain his focus now that he has been appointed Deputy Director of the Library.
The Deputy Director role is new to the Racine Public Library, created to be part of the library’s leadership team through public service and supporting the broader strategic work of the library.
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Demske’s primary goals for this position: to make sure staff and patrons feel good about entering the building every day, and to amplify the library’s reputation as a “radically engaged” library in the IDE in the Root community and in the international library field.
Demske attributed his job at the library to who he is today as an employee, activist, elected official and proud member of the Racine community. He is also a county council supervisor which was first elected in 2018.
From her first circulation role, Demske and the Library quickly transformed her role into one of leading programs to support teen leadership and community engagement.
It wasn’t long before he also became the recipient of the library’s continuing education endowment, through which he earned his master’s degree in library and information science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
His new experiences led Demske and the library to create the unique position of Racine Public Library’s Community Resources Librarian (his later role)—effectively an in-house community organizer position—from within.
He also created the BONK! arts and culture, founded Mary Finley and Marcie Eanes Black History Month Read-In and helped lead the library’s successful Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations – which he has proudly passed on to other community leaders as these efforts were gaining momentum.
“Nick stood out as someone who would not only take on the responsibilities of the position, but also be able to shape the role, grow in it, and use his skills and dedication to contribute to a better future for the library. and the wider community,” said Angela Zimmermann, Executive Director of the Racine Public Library. “Her community-centered approach and leadership skills will serve the Racine Public Library exceptionally well.”
“Sometimes we choose the communities, and sometimes the communities choose us,” Demske said. “I feel like the community chose me. I want to spend the rest of my life prioritizing fulfilling this investment that this community and this library has put in me.”
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