top of page
  • Writer's pictureElisabeth Gasparka

Creativity + Collaboration at Milwaukee Public Library

It all started with deciding to employ a different social media approach: dreaming up engaging content first and finding ways to tell stories about the eclectic offerings of the Milwaukee Public Library system through that content. As the team of employees across different departments embarked down this path to try to drive reengagement with Milwaukee libraries after pandemic lockdown, they were encouraged by leadership to think outside the box, to lean in to their creativity and the collaborative process.

Today, the MPL boasts over a 100,000 social media followers on Instagram, and has many videos with millions of views and likes. The productions are spearheaded by Fawn Siemsen-Fuchs and Evan Syzmkowski, but they are a team effort.

Together, library staffers across many areas ideate, work, plan and create. They act as prop people, performers, videographers (using iPhone cameras) and directors. Drawing on topical trends on social media, the staffers capitalize on their talents and the popularity of themes and use them to leverage and showcase aspects of the library system.

The goal of these videos is to, in City Librarian Joan Johnson’s words, “to elevate all libraries” and broadcast them as vibrant cultural spaces. But the MPL’s creativity doesn’t end with social media. In fact, it’s just the tip of an iceberg. Milwaukee Zinefest, presented in partnership with the Bindery, makerspaces for artists, and regular exhibitions of art created by community members; these are just a few of the successful artistic programs that the libraries host. Today, MPL even has a secondary Instagram dedicated entirely to creativity — MPLCreates.

In the conversation below, Creative MKE host Elisabeth Gasparka and MPL's Joan Johnson, Fawn Siemsen-Fuchs and Evan Syzmkowski discuss the fact that, though Milwaukee may not be known worldwide (yet) for its arts scene, those who live here understand that Milwaukee is a community brimming with an abundance of creative energy and output. The endless supply of music, murals, artists of many disciplines in this community together provide natural fodder to support the work of MPL. But, the library still needs the public to engage beyond social media as the future of its funding hangs in the balance.

You can help! Share feedback about the Milwaukee Public Library system through their Get Loud for Libraries Campaign.


Full Episode Transcript (Click to Expand):

Additional Resources:


bottom of page