Will Glenn Sr. shares the importance of this milestone and how he encourages others to tap into their Black excellence.
“I’m the swaggiest librarian you’re ever gonna meet – especially in Madison.”
Will Glenn Sr. proudly introduces himself as Madison’s first and only African-American Teen Librarian.
Throughout his career, Glenn has been dedicated to having a positive impact on young people. Prior to becoming a teen librarian, he worked for the Madison School District’s Office of Youth Re-engagement.
Glenn also describes himself as someone who has a journey – from being raised by a single mother in poverty in Milwaukee, to overcoming a felony on his record and achieving a master’s degree in organizational management and leadership.
“I firmly believe a lot of kids of color don’t have aspirations to follow a lot of career paths because they just don’t know [about the opportunities],” says Glenn. “I felt I owed it to pay it forward because I didn’t have a squeaky clean upbringing.”
He aims to connect with young adults who think all adults are “corny” and tune out any advice they attempt to give. Glenn says he’s able to form connections with them because he’s been through some of the same challenges they’re facing and can give them the motivation to change their situation.
One of the first things he did as a librarian was to host the first-ever “It Takes A Village” community resource fair at Penn Park in the summer of 2021. Glenn says events like this are vital during the pandemic to help people learn about available community services and also check in on their mental wellbeing. He hopes to work with other community leaders to replicate the resource fair in different locations across Madison.
In October, Glenn became a homeowner and says it still doesn’t feel real.
“When you come from nothing, this feels like I’ve got a mini mansion,” says Glenn. “I’m definitely thankful and I’m happy. I mean, I want to get a ladder and sit on top of the house and just be like ‘Man – I did it!’”
This community came together to support Glenn in achieving this life-changing milestone. The affordable home he purchased is one of several being remodeled in South Madison as part of the Urban League of Greater Madison’s $5 million initiative to increase Black homeownership rates. Young adults from Operation Fresh Start completely renovated and transformed the home before Glenn moved in. They gained construction and life skills in the process.
“I got love for OFS and the mission,” says Glenn. “We as a society have been trying to have a set of arbitrary goals and standards that may not necessarily fit everybody. Some kids might be better off building and creating stuff, rather than sitting in a classroom and going through remedial math.”
Glenn first learned about OFS while he was working for the MMSD Office of Youth Re-Engagement.
"I always looked at OFS as giving an individual the opportunity to probably be the best version of themselves, long term."
Before he acquired the property, Glenn went over to the house a handful of times to appreciate the work OFS participants were doing. “I would look at the young people and I tell them I’m proud of them and they’re doing a good job,” says Glenn.
“OFS is really happy to see this home go to someone who is so invested in creating positive change in our community and providing meaningful support to young people,” says OFS Executive Director, Greg Markle.
Making dreams happen
Glenn also has longstanding connections with the Urban League, through participation in its driver’s license restoration program and expungement clinic.
"The Urban League — they make dreams happen," says Glenn.
The happiest part about becoming a homeowner, Glenn says, was having his youngest son there to see him get the keys. “That was one of the slickest things, is him being able to see that and hopefully being able to tap into his inner excellence.”
“Realistically, we all have to go sometime,” says Glenn. “So when you do – what type of legacy are you leaving behind? That’s what I want to be one of my kids’ fondest memories, like ‘yeah, I was there when he bought the house.’”