October 6, 2015

Kirby McCurtis | Movers & Shakers 2013 — Community Builders

Humanist at Work

Kirby McCurtis - Movers & Shakers 2013


Youth Librarian
Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

MLIS, UCLA, 2008

Orientations Committee, ALA New Members Round Table

A postcard of a little girl and the question, “Do you UBUNTU?” McCurtis explains, “Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning ‘Humanity to others’ ” and the name of a campaign for women and children with HIV/AIDS


Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images for Library Journal

“I became a librarian for the social justice aspect of the work,” says Kirby McCurtis, adding, “I am pretty loud and energetic, and I think that people don’t expect that of a librarian.” ­McCurtis has channeled her energy into trailblazing outreach programs for teen mothers and African Americans, first at the San Diego Public Library (SDPL) and now at the Multnomah County Library (MCL), where she has worked since January 2012 as a youth librarian with a focus on service to the African and African American communities.

Her innovations include Cuddle Up & Read and Insights, story time programs for pregnant and parenting teens; Black Storytime, geared to African American patrons; and Reading Is Grand, an intergenerational story time for grandparents raising grandchildren (“quite common in the African American community,” McCurtis says) that she hopes to launch in spring 2013.

A 2011 MCL study “revealed that the library is underused by the black community and that barriers to use are demonstrable,” McCurtis says. She is making those barriers come down, with her determination and initiatives like tagging black-themed books to make it easier for patrons to find them online. ­McCurtis also started a black popular fiction collection at her branch in response to “the community need and request for more ‘black books.’ ”

Nominator Justin Hoenke (also a 2013 Mover & Shaker, p. 50) says, “Kirby does not stop, does not settle for anything less than perfect, and, in the end, she makes her community stronger.”

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