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Waterloo Public Library's new CEO believes access is everything

'It's just very exciting to be able to grow with an organization that I believe in so much,' said Kelly Kipfer
Kelly Kipfer
Kelly Kipfer

Kelly Kipfer, the next CEO of the Waterloo Public Library Board, says libraries will always exist for newcomers and community members alike to access information and resources.

Replacing Laurie Clarke, who retired in July 2022 after 12 years as CEO, Kipfer’s tenure will begin on August 29. 

“It's just very exciting to be able to grow with an organization that I believe in so much,” said Kipfer. “And so to move into the CEO role and be able to direct the strategic plan and have relationships that think strategically about our potential and opportunities is incredible.”

Joining the WPL in 2013 as the manager of community engagement and children's services, Kipfer currently oversees programming for the library’s four branches, including the new Eastside Branch. She has a Master’s degree in Immigration and Settlement Studies and worked in settlement support before WPL. 

“My background definitely speaks to what's happening with public libraries and being a space that is accessible and without barriers,” said Kipfer. “And so, for newcomers, it's a neutral space, it's a free space, everybody gets services regardless of their status or their income or their age.” 

Kipfer is particularly proud of the WPL’s partnership with the K-W Multicultural Centre, which offers on-site settlement services. 

During the pandemic, Kipfer and the WPL team played a large part in helping their community navigate the new digital divide. In their first “normal” summer since COVID, Kipfer maintains that the library will continue to provide access to learning for anyone who wants it. 

“We have this organization that is devoted to the idea of reducing barriers and so that can help model inclusivity for other organizations but really it makes sure that everybody has access to tools, information, and resources,” said Kipfer. “We’ve been working really closely with lots of community organizations to make sure that the things that we're doing, programming around and celebrating, reflect the community.” 

A lover of non-fiction, Kipfer is attracted to books about boats (often shipwrecks), and leadership. One of her favourite books, Until the Sea Shall Free Them by Robert Frump, backs up her belief that like a ship captain, the leader of an organization or a situation has to draw on the different strengths and perspectives at the moment. Kipfer plans to keep that advice in mind when she becomes CEO. 

“There are people that are going to thrive in difficult and challenging situations and there are people that are going to buckle but are wonderful in solid times,” said Kipfer. “And so your role in a leadership position is to know who to draw on and who to connect with.”

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