The Champaign Public Library (CPL) has been a consistent funnel for both information and community engagement since it’s original opening in 1977. With a constant stream of enlightening workshops, engaging programs, and accessible community resources, the CPL has definitely earned it’s billing as one of the top libraries in the country. To get a better understanding of all the wonderful avenues of knowledge and opportunity that are offered through CPL, we sat down with Madeleine Wolske, business librarian and Champaign native, who shared her role plus some of the tools and programs that the public can access at this top-tier institution.
Champaign Public Library is a proud member of the Champaign Center Partnership!
Tell me about yourself and your role at the library.
My name is Madeleine Wolske and I am the business librarian at the Champaign Public Library. It is kind of a hybrid role, so half of what I do is the regular reference desk work – lots of wonderful customer service and helping people with everything under the sun – but since I am also a specialty librarian, I also assist in helping aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners utilize library resources and connect them with community resources to start or grow their businesses. It is wonderful because we can provide our community with powerful business electronic resources that show users how to research their industry, market, who is your ideal consumer, or what is the likelihood or interest in your product or service in your specific geographic area. We also have tools where you can just plug in information and create a business plan, or create a guide to starting a nonprofit, or databases for people to find grants and grant makers. It’s just pretty awesome.
My favorite aspect of my position is that I do a lot of one-on-ones with individuals, called Book-a-Librarians. I also teach workshops on how to utilize library resources, but also get to tap into our amazing entrepreneurial community to get presenters to share their expertise.
How did you get started in your role with the Champaign Public Library?
My background is in community organizing and celebrating the diversity of our small businesses and nonprofits. I first came to the Champaign Public Library as the Program and Event Librarian in late January of 2020, so with Covid happening shortly after I started, my position had to pivot a little bit. There was an opening for the Business Librarian, and I realized I would be able to make meaningful connections with people through helping them one-on-one. I thought it was a good fit for me because of my business background owning a sole proprietorship and previously managing an LLC that operated as a nonprofit — a fun mix of experiences! I think that it is kind de rigueur or typical for a lot of librarians to be interested and involved in so many different things.
What are some of the programs that you spearhead that most excite you?
Right now, I really love the Q&A with the Brand Hub. It is a drop-in session that will soon be changing into individual consultation slots where anyone can come in and get expert advice on branding or marketing from faculty and students from the University and also maybe connect with some alumni. I am really excited for that program. I also have a really fun program series that I am working on with the you, the Champaign Center Partnership, called “So you Want To..” where we focus on different industries. In June, the first one is going to happen and it is “So You Want to Own a Restaurant”. We are really excited to feature some local entrepreneurs who are staples in our community. We will have them share their stories, experiences, and provide tips for those who would like to follow a similar path. It’s also a great networking opportunity.
Being from Champaign, what role do you see the Champaign Public Library playing in the community?
I see us as the backbone and a wonderful representation of how much our community values and supports itself. I mean, every public library changes based off of community need, community perception, and we have been able provide so many resources and take down barriers to information and I just think it is incredible. I also think that when people come into Champaign, they come to the library first thing. We are in the top 5% of libraries in the United States – which is pretty incredible. We have something for everyone and we all kind of love it when new residents come into town and visit the library. We are able to share the wealth of information, events, and resources that our community provides. We did a lot of wonderful things during the pandemic, including extending our WIFI to the parking lot, increasing the number of hot spots and technology that we check out to patrons, and making our programming virtual. We were able to do a lot to provide people with a semblance of normalcy. And also, as a townie, I mean it is so hokey to say, but I also kind of grew up in the old library and it was a huge part of my childhood. We are able to be such a great library directly because of community support.
The Champaign Public Library has such amazing programs and resources to offer the community so how can people find out about and connect with everything that is made available to them here?
Check our website! All our events are at champaign.org/events. We have a lot of specialty programming monthly letters that you can sign up for. For example, I have a business/entrepreneur letter that I send out once a month, my colleagues also have a technology newsletter and a career newsletter. Then there is the amazing monthly library wide newsletter that I encourage everyone to read and subscribe to. We are also very active on Facebook, and our Teen librarians now have an engaging Tik Tok. Also, in May we started printing our monthly Program Calendars again so that you can just grab one, bring it home, put it up on your fridge, then just circle all the awesome stuff that you want to attend here at the library.