Mayor Barrett appoints Milwaukee Public Library Director and City Librarian

July 30, 2020

Joan R. Johnson, new Milwaukee Public Library Director and City Librarian

Mayor Tom Barrett announced on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, the appointment of Joan R. Johnson to serve as Milwaukee Public Library Director and City Librarian. Johnson is currently Deputy Director of the system, and has been since March 2009.

If confirmed, Johnson will succeed Paula Kiely, who is retiring on August 28, 2020, and take her place in Milwaukee Public Library’s 142-year history as its 12th director, fourth woman to lead the library and first African American in the role. Johnson has been with the Milwaukee Public Library since 2006. She previously served as a Branch Manager and Department Director in Seattle.

“I am pleased to announce Joan R. Johnson as the new Director and City Librarian for the Milwaukee Public Library,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “In addition to her wealth of knowledge, Joan cares deeply about the residents of this city and providing them with equitable access to the library’s many resources. I have no doubt that under her leadership the library will continue to transform itself through innovative programming and collaborative solutions to further inspire Milwaukeeans to read, learn and connect.”

In her current role at Milwaukee Public Library, Johnson oversees all aspects of public service, including the operations of Central Library and all neighborhood branch libraries, as well as youth services and adult programming.

Johnson is well-known and respected in the library field in the State of Wisconsin as a presenter and collaborator with other systems. She is known nationally for her work to enact Library NOW, a historic partnership that gives digital library cards to every student in Milwaukee Public Schools and beyond. Johnson also serves on the board of Westown Association.

Johnson has a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she received her Master of Librarianship from the University of Washington. Born in Gary, IN, Johnson moved to the City of Milwaukee and is a graduate of Milwaukee Public Schools. Johnson currently lives in the Washington Heights neighborhood.