February 11, 2016

Priya Rathnam | Movers & Shakers 2013 — Marketers


Priya Rathnam - Movers & Shakers 2013


Reference Librarian
Shrewsbury Public Library, MA

MLIS, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, 2007

Member of the Shakespeare Club

@bookspriya; Work Initiative Network blog; ow.ly/hTFJ3; ow.ly/hTFSr

Photo by T.F. Keegan

Even after the Shrewsbury Public Library was forced in 2009 to cut her hours to part-time, Priya Rathnam put her community first. She created the English Conversation Circle to help immigrants learn English. She sought grants, sponsorships, and volunteers to expand the program. “I decided to turn adversity into opportunity,” says Rathnam, a reference librarian.

When Rathnam moved from children’s services to adult in early 2010, she immediately noticed the large number of non-English speakers using language resources, says Shrewsbury library director Ellen M. Dolan. “Priya saw a need, stayed focused on how to meet that need despite her own challenges, and created a program out of nothing,” says Dolan. The program, now four sessions per week, serves a city with almost 11 percent foreign-born residents. During 2010, Rathnam returned to full-time status.

Rathnam says she realized that it made sense to convene a multicultural advisory committee to plan activities that encourage understanding of other cultures. The well-attended multicultural events draw newcomers to the library and bring various cultures together, says George C. Brown, the library’s assistant director.

And following the model of her conversation circles, Rathnam launched two additional low-cost, high-yield programs, the Job Seeker’s Network and Spanish-language instruction classes. “Priya never gives up!” Brown says.

Create the Library Your Community or Campus Needs
LTC Online Course Join Library Journal and a roster of design experts for our latest 4-week interactive online course. Starting January 27, 2016, Library Design Workshop will guide participants through complex issues of library space design projects such as space programming, fundraising, and finding the right design team.
  • Develop a roadmap to create a flexible library space suited to your community.
  • Inspiring ideas, concepts, and perspectives from leaders in the library design field.
  • Build a framework to create a robust report for key stakeholders.
Lead the Change logoLTC register Lead the Change
Library Journal's Lead the Change offers timely resources and tools to stay ahead of the innovations and changes impacting the library profession. Library staff at all levels can participate in hands-on live events, access insightful on-demand webcasts, and enroll in LTC Leadership Academy - Online, a new online learning program that will help staff learn essential skills to advance their careers, solve problems unique to their libraries, and put strategic plans into action. LEARN MORE


  1. Nancy Gilbert says:

    This is a shining example of how our public libraries continue to be valuable resources to our communities.