Baronica Roberson is a champion of the Chicago Public Library (CPL) system, which includes 80 libraries across the city. As Deputy Commissioner, Baronica oversees areas of administration and management, including finance, staff development, hiring, procurement, building repair, and maintenance.
Baronica saw the Civic Leadership Academy fellowship as an opportunity to widen her professional network. She was excited about the possibility of a diverse peer group she could call on for information or resources and for whom she could also provide support.
One pivotal connection was to CLA fellow Bob White, Chief Program Officer for The CARA Program, a nonprofit organization focused on job placement, training, and coaching for people affected by poverty and other life challenges. Because of their CLA relationship, Bob sought Baronica’s help in creating an initiative that could offer employment training to homeless individuals who had come to the library looking to escape the elements.
Three years after CLA, Baronica reports the CPL-CARA partnership is going strong, accomplishing the library’s goal of serving patrons effectively while also bringing patrons critical workforce development assistance. The program is also having an impact. Baronica notes, “Now people are actually getting jobs as a result” of the program.
Baronica reflects on the kinds of connections she has made through and since her CLA fellowship: “Where you might not have seen or thought about synergies between organizations, they do actually exist if you dig a little deeper.”