Madison’s first African American teen librarian
November is traditionally a month for giving thanks. But Will Glenn Sr. of Madison is thankful every day. He is thankful for his family and friends, his job and community. He is happy to be alive and thriving.
Glenn grew up in Milwaukee’s “53206” zip code, known as Wisconsin’s most troubled neighborhood, the most incarcerated zip code in the state with a majority of its men having spent time in jail or prison. Born to a teen mom, he was raised for many years with his mom in his grandmother’s home. Both the women in his life worked hard to provide a stable, loving home.
“A lot of credit goes to my grandmother, Rosie Batton,” said Glenn. “She is the person who, no matter what, grounds me.”
Glenn knew how lucky he was, yet he still got into trouble. He graduated from Harold S. Vincent High School on a Friday, and he was in court the following Monday morning. He needed a way to change his life trajectory.
“I went to college, so I wouldn’t end up in jail,” he said.
Glenn received a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in human resources from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, then went on to earn a master’s degree in organizational management and leadership from Springfield College, Massachusetts, at a satellite site in Milwaukee.
During a dark period of Glenn’s life, a close personal named friend from college, Camyle, encouraged him to leave Milwaukee and move to Madison for greater opportunities.
In Madison, Glenn lived on the East side and worked for a low hourly wage at a gas station. A single father to two sons, Glenn was barely making ends meet. He also worked as assistant director at Meadowood Neighborhood Center, which shared space with Madison Public Library’s Meadowridge branch.
“There’s a synergy between the center and the library,” said Glenn. “I worked between the two and often hung out at the library.”
Deputy Mayor Enis Ragland introduced Glenn to Greg Mickels, then director of the Madison Public Library, who suggested Glenn join the library board. Later, when a librarian position opened at Meadowridge, Glenn applied for the position. But he didn’t get the job.
“I didn’t really understand that you needed a library science degree,” he said. “I had experience working with youth but didn’t have the right degree.”
Then a part-time position for a library assistant opened up, but Glenn couldn’t make it work logistically. Fortunately, during the interview process, Janetta Pegues, manager of Goodman South Madison Library, noticed Glenn and his need for a full-time position. She offered him a job as a full-time library assistant.
Glenn researched the pay for a library assistant and realized what an improvement this position would be for him and his two sons. He accepted the position, serving as the first Black male library assistant in Madison.
But working in the library was not an easy transition compared to working with “rambunctious kids,” which seemed more his calling. Plus, Glenn faced many racial and social challenges.
“There were no people of color really working for the library that I knew,” he said. “I didn’t have anyone to make me feel welcome and show me the way, outside of Miss Kim Williams and Nasra Said.”
Glenn held the library assistant position for four years before accepting a position as the out-of-school youth re-engagement program coordinator for the Madison Metropolitan School District. At the same time, he was contracted with the Goodman South Library to work with students in after-school programs, including the Lego Club and the Odyssey Project.
Then a teen librarian position was approved at Goodman South, and Glenn got the job in 2019.
“The students tell me I’m the first Black librarian they know,” said Glenn. “It’s touching and powerful to show them a career path they didn’t know was viable.”
Being a male librarian is a rare occurrence, let alone a Black male librarian, which is why Glenn always introduces himself as the first African American male teen librarian in Madison. He works hard to be a conduit for BIPOC youth in community spaces.
“I’m planting seeds, showing youth that this is something they can do,’” he said.
Glenn is grateful to the individuals who believed in him, who opened doors for him and encouraged him to take on roles that at first, to him, didn’t seem right. He is thankful for his full-time position as a librarian and his self-started organizations “Let’s Blow Off Some S.T.E.A.A.M,” which exposes youth to different fields, and “One Pyramid at a Time,” which is his motto – that “we can change our world one block, one neighborhood, one pyramid at a time.”
“What am I most thankful for right now? That’s a tough question,” he said. “I’m just thankful. For everything.”