Wilson Poulter: Public libraries for the whole community

By Melody Lau

Wilson's hometown: Thunder Bay, Ontario

Before entering the MLIS program, Wilson Poulter hadn’t written an essay since the third year of his undergraduate studies.


After completing his master’s degree in mathematics at Waterloo University, Wilson Poulter started a PhD in mathematics, but quickly realized that the subject’s scientific focus was not for him. That was when he decided to apply for the Master of Library & Information Science program at Western University.

Wilson has always appreciated the public library as a place for patrons to gain information and knowledge about themselves and the world. However, he was motivated to pursue public librarianship after seeing how public libraries fail to serve all members of their community due to the social exclusion of marginalized groups.

“Libraries are often created with a specific person in mind that they’re serving, and that person is not very broad—middle-class, white and Christian values,” said Wilson. “Libraries are not improving if they’re handing out a feedback survey once a year to regular library users because that only serves a select few and not the community as a whole.”

Inspired by the mission of the Thunder Bay Public Library to empower and transform their community, Wilson hopes to be a part of their initiative in the future. 

"I'm really excited about public librarianship and the idea of building a community through the library’s tools and getting services brought to people where they are."

“The public library’s goal should be to discover the needs of the community it serves and provide this service to the best of its abilities. This necessitates librarians working outside the walls of the library to create connections with marginalized communities that have been socially excluded from the library’s programming, such as BIPOC and unhomed community members,” said Wilson.

“Work of this kind requires a commitment to the continuous development of rapport and relationships with these socially excluded communities. Only then you can ask ‘how can we help you?’ and have these communities direct what’s going on in the library.”

Wilson believes the MLIS program will help him connect the public library to his community, as the program and research at FIMS align with his critical approach to the world.

“Many other schools are more technically concerned and focus more on the informational aspects of things rather than the human aspect—so I made the right choice,” said Wilson.

Fun Fact

Since September, Wilson has become an avid chess player, achieving a 1400 ELO rating—meaning he’s in the 40th percentile. Wilson wants to make it clear he started playing before The Queen’s Gambit came out and he’s not a “poser” or a “bandwagoner”.

Wilson also feels lucky to enter the program when the course, Introduction to Indigenizing and Decolonizing LIS, is being offered for the first time.

“Every week, we have a three-hour Zoom session where Indigenous librarians and information experts give lectures and host discussion circles. It’s been such a relief because we’re able to have conversations with each other in real-time,” said Wilson.

Wilson aims to return to Thunder Bay with the knowledge and insight gained from the course to serve his community.

“I think I would be doing myself and my community a disservice if I wasn’t thinking more critically about the issues that Indigenous peoples face and what Indigenous peoples are and have been doing in this profession to combat colonial structures,” said Wilson.

Wilson hopes to one day travel back to his hometown to be a part of the Thunder Bay Public Library’s mission to challenge institutional and systemic racism and strengthen its community for all its members.

Profiles in the Meet Our Students section are written by students in the Master of Media in Journalism & Communication program, who are enrolled in MMJC 9604 - Professional Writing.