By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jul 07, 2020 at 12:01 PM

On Monday, after a quarter-century with Milwaukee Public Library, Director/City Librarian Paula A. Kiely announced that she plans to retire at the end of August.

"It has been my honor and a true privilege to serve as City Librarian for the past 14 years, after first being appointed to the role by Mayor Tom Barrett in September of 2006," said Kiely.

"This is a hard decision, especially during these challenging times, but it’s time to focus on my family. There has never been a day where my work at the library wasn’t focused on elevating and enriching the lives of the residents of our great city. Now there is an opportunity for the city to bring fresh leadership to the library."

Kiely will likely be remembered for the many new mixed-use branch developments and branch library refreshes undertaken during her tenure as city librarian and for the technological advances in those branches, including an automated branch kiosk on the northwest side and makerspaces for teens. Kiely also helped spearhead green roofs and rain gardens and other stormwater management initiatives.

She also focused on preschool development via programs like Books2Go and the Office of Early Childhood Development at Central Library Downtown, and youth access via LibraryNow, which helped almost 80,000 students get library cards.

"Throughout her career, Paula has been a model of servant leadership," said Milwaukee Public Library Board Chairwoman Dr. Michele Bria. "She focused on the community and meeting particular neighborhood needs and interests, while ensuring equity of access. She is hardworking, persistent and has always worked for what was best for the library and the people it serves."

And, as a library statement correctly noted, "She challenged people’s perception of the library as an old, dusty place where visitors would be 'shushed' into a modern, welcoming and entertaining space with the Library Loud Campaign which
brought a hip-hop concert, a haunted house, a Mexican wrestling match, and a rap battle all to the library. Kiely was also successful in bringing the first StoryCorps Outpost outside of New York City to Milwaukee in 2007."

"Paula Kiely embodies the notion of the public library as an enduring institution because of its constant evolution," said Mayor Tom Barrett. "Her emphasis on literacy of all kinds – digital, reading, financial – led to increases in electronic resources, WiFi, laptops, computer classes, job labs and the addition of Career Online High School. Through her leadership, MPL streamlined operations with adoption of RFID, Self-Check-out, and automated book returns and increased
access for all residents."

A replacement has not yet been named.

"I am especially thankful to Mayor Barrett for his trust, confidence, and support," said Kiely in a statement on Monday.

"I am also grateful for the support and commitment of the Board of Trustees, our Friends and Foundation, and public servants who are committed to our community and enriching the lives of all residents of every age."

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.