Leslyn Shires, 2023 Library Hall of Fame Inductee

During her forty-year professional library career Leslyn M. Shires (1939-2015) made significant contributions to the improvement of library service to the residents of the communities she served and to the residents of the state of Wisconsin.

Leslyn M. Shires (maiden name Schmidt) was born in Hartford, WI on April 11, 1939. Shires received a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1961, and a M.S.L.S. for Columbia University in 1962.

Shires worked at the Milwaukee Public Library from 1962 to 1974. Her positions included: Reference Librarian; Project Director for “Over 60” Service; Branch Head; and Coordinator of Adult Services. 

She served as Director of the Wauwatosa Public Library from 1974 to 1981.  Following her service as Assistant State Superintendent, Division for Library Services from 1981 to 1992 she served as Director of the Fond du Lac Public Library until her retirement in 2002.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

It was in her role as Assistant State Superintendent for Library Services at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) during the period 1981 to 1992 that she made her most far-reaching contributions.  Shires’ tenure in this capacity was characterized by active and positive engagement with the library community and the residents of Wisconsin to improve library service.  

Shires became head of the Division for Library Services following the passage of a law creating the Council on Library and Network Development (COLAND) whose function was to advise the State Superintendent of Public Instruction on the provision of quality library services to the state’s residents. She met regularly with this body as the State Superintendent’s representative and helped craft its agenda and produce required reports to the Governor and State Legislature.

Major task forces were created by the State Superintendent upon Shires’ recommendation to address major library policy issues. Two major Task Forces on Library Legislation and Funding made recommendations that resulted in significant changes in Chapter 43, Wisconsin’s library law and increased state funding.

The procedures for the administration of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) were significantly revised to allow a greater role for the LSTA Advisory Committee and more input on priorities for the library community.

Shires and Division for Library Services staff worked cooperatively with WLA’s Library Development & Legislation Committee to create legislative and funding goals supported actively by the State Superintendent. 

Shires was an active supporter of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) which was partially funded by the Department of Public Instruction.

An annual State Superintendent’s Conference for Public Librarians and Trustees was initiated. This was eventually merged with the Spring conference of WLA’s Public Library Section. 

A highly successful State Superintendent’s Conference for District Media Directors was carried out.  A School Library Media Task Force developed the School Library Media Programs: A Resource and Planning Guide.

Shires and Division staff worked closely with the System and Resource Library Administrator’s Association (SRLAW) to address legislative and funding issues of importance to this group.

Shires coordinated with Division staff the implementation in 1990-1991 of the Wisconsin Pre-White House Conference on Library and Information Services. This involved an elaborate statewide process overseen by an 18-member Steering Committee appointed by the State Superintendent. Hearings and meetings were held throughout the state to gain input from the state’s residents and library community. A highly successful Wisconsin Pre-Conference took place in Madison on February 7-8, 1991, to make recommendations and select delegates for the National Conference.

Shires was active in professional library associations. Her participation in the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) included serving as Chair of the Reference and Adult Services Section in 1974 and President in 1979. Shires received WLA’s Special Services Award in 1981. Her participation in the American Library Association (ALA) included serving on the Reference and Adult Services Division (RASD) Committee on Aging in 1967-74 and on the RASD History Section Executive Board in 1979-1981.

Community Involvement

During her tenure at the Milwaukee Public Library Shires served on the Milwaukee Council for Adult Learning and was a member of the Zonta Club of Milwaukee. While in Fond du Lac, she was involved in many community programs including, Altrusa, Fondy Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels, the Arboretum and the Fond du Lac Roundtable.

Shires is listed in Who’s Who in Library and Information Services, 1982 edition.