Strong Libraries Mean Strong Communities

Emanuel Mitchell, hired as the Des Moines Public Library’s deputy director in September, calls DMPL a “hidden jewel.”

Writer: Luke Manderfeld

For Emanuel Mitchell, libraries have “always been the center of great communities.” That conviction drives Mitchell in his new role as deputy director of the Des Moines Public Library system.


“I always wanted to make change in my community, although it was not until much later in life that I realized the library was where I would achieve my lifelong goal,” Mitchell says. “As I look back over my life, libraries in some form have been a part of my growth. Learning something new fascinates me … and giving back to society as a whole is the fuel that motivates me to make the impossible possible.”

Growing up in Philadelphia, Mitchell spent much of his time at local libraries, then worked in one while attending college at Tuskegee University in Alabama. As an intern with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office after graduation, he was glued to law publications. He started his career with the public library system in Atlanta, and over the years has worked for public, academic and even prison libraries. He joined DMPL last September, moving here with his wife and two children.

He calls the DMPL a “hidden jewel.”

“The system, the engagement from the community, the programs, the growth and how the city has transformed over the years made [Des Moines] the perfect place to make that next step in my career,” Mitchell says.

His goal for 2021 is to operate safely during the pandemic while delivering “the same high level of excellent services and programs that have been delivered in the past, just in a new format” virtually and socially distanced.

A few books Mitchell suggests checking out:


“The Big Bad Wolf” by James Patterson: As a children’s librarian in Atlanta, Mitchell found the story of the wolf in the “Three Little Pigs” tale intriguing. Patterson’s adult thriller “will be a favorite read for me until the end of time,” he adds.

“A Beautiful Constraint” by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden: This nonfiction book focuses on transforming your limitations into strengths, and it’s one of Mitchell’s favorite reads from 2020.

“A Promised Land” by Barack Obama: Mitchell hasn’t read the former president’s latest memoir yet, but it’s next on his list.

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