April 19, 2018

Cynthia Chadwick | Movers & Shakers 2004

The Missionary


An M.A. in divinity is an uncommon qualification in librarianship, and so is experience in teaching job skills to homeless women. But Cynthia Chadwick, the Arapahoe Library District’s manager of outreach services, thinks her background is a good match for library work. Libraries not only ‘have a duty to serve the marginalized of our society,’ she says, but provide ‘some unique opportunities to do so’ as well.

Her colleagues nominated Chadwick as a Mover & Shaker because of her work with library finances, which may seem ironic. But it’s not. Her ‘mission in learning about the finances of public libraries is centered around service to the poor,’ she says. For her project for the Urban Libraries Council Executive Leadership Institute, she set out to learn everything there was to know about the library’s money situation from its finance director, Chris Brogan.

Chadwick turned out to have a genius for conveying the meaning of numbers to her colleagues, who had only the vaguest understanding of the district library’s finances. Chadwick, says Brogan, ‘organized individual budget meetings, presented information, answered questions, walked staff members through financial charts and graphs, and provided a forum for the tedious budget process.’ Chadwick’s project democratized the budget process, notes Eloise May, her supervisor. ‘More speculative questions are now being asked in budget meetings.’

Chadwick then worked with the district’s Board of Trustees to determine whether it should seek additional funding from voters. When the board decided to move forward with the levy, she worked to develop the strategy for what turned out to be a highly effective campaign. She says, ‘We did precinct walks, yard signs, back-to-school-night visits, a direct mailing to our support base, and speaking visits to service organizations.’ The levy passed with 58 percent of the vote.

Chadwick started in library work far from the finance office, in reference and children’s services and quickly moved to extension service. As the library district’s representative to the Greater Littleton Youth Initiative, formed to make the community a safer place for kids after the shootings at Columbine High School, she helped create a telephone hotline for parents and teens.

Her extension experience made Chadwick a logical choice for her present position, where she supervises the homebound service, an early childhood literacy program, and an unusually imaginative program that helps parents in jail connect to their children. They record themselves reading books aloud, and the library sends the books and tapes to the children.

Her work with imprisoned parents is an example of the library’s mission statement, which commits to ‘outstanding and personalized service.’ For Chadwick, personalized service is the future of public libraries, because ‘people will only keep using us if we provide services they truly want and can’t get elsewhere.’

In her next project, Chadwick will examine the relationship between libraries and arts-related organizations. She thinks librarians, believing funding is more secure in educational institutions, have partnered with them while overlooking potential relationships with cultural agencies. She plans to explore the commonalities between cultural institutions and libraries, because ‘new revenues can mean new opportunities to serve our communities in ways we haven’t considered.’




Current Position: Manager of Outreach Services, Arapahoe Library District, Centennial, CO
Degree : M.A., Divinity, University of Chicago, 1994