RACINE— This winter, the Racine Public Library appointed Nick Demske as its deputy director. Demske, who has worked for the library for 15 years, brings a focus on “equity, diversity and inclusion” (EDI), and antiracism to the role.
The deputy director role is new to the Racine Public Library, created to serve on the library’s leadership team through public service and by supporting the library’s broader strategic work. Demske’s first goals for the role: ensure staff and patrons feel awesome about coming into the building every day, and amplify the library’s reputation as one that is “radically committed” to EDI throughout the Racine community and international library field.
“To some degree, I’m kind of a living success story of libraries,” says Demske. 15 years ago, Demske was an unemployed patron of the library. Then, his primary use of the building was as a warming shelter where he filled out job applications. One of the library’s staff members paid attention and added an application for a new circulation opening to his pile.
In March of 2007, which ended up being one of Demske’s foundational moments, the library called to tell him he got the job. He’s remained at the library ever since, and he attributes who he is today as an employee, activist, elected official and proud Racine community member to his employment at RPL.
From his early days in circulation, Demske’s role soon morphed into one of running 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 of Library and Information Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
His new experiences led to Demske and the library crafting the Racine Public Library’s unique community resource librarian position (his subsequent role), which is effectively an in-house community organizer position, from the inside out. He also established the BONK! arts and culture series, founded the Mary Finley and Marcie Eanes Black History Month Read-In and helped lead the library’s successful Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations — all of which he proudly passed onto other community leaders as these efforts gained momentum.
“Nick stood out as someone who would not only fulfill the responsibilities of the position, but would also be able to mold the role, grow within it, and use his skills and dedication to contribute to a brighter future for the library and the entire community,” said Angela Zimmermann, executive director of the Racine Public Library. “His community-centric focus and leadership skills will serve the Racine Public Library exceptionally well.”
“Sometimes we choose communities, and sometimes communities choose us,” Demske says. “I feel like the community did choose me. I want to spend the rest of my life prioritizing making good on that investment that this community and this library has put into me.”
About the Racine Public Library
The Racine Public Library’s mission is to lift up the lives of the people of the Racine community by embracing community diversity, promoting inclusion, creating opportunity and by supporting the development of community literacy through a love of literature, learning and civic engagement. Located on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan, the library first opened its doors in 1897 and has served the community from its 75th Street location since 1958.