Programming & Outreach Coordinator
Anne Arundel County Public Library, Annapolis, MD
MLS, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, 2001
Photo ©2014 Michael Pilla
“I love early literacy programming,” says Shelley Davenport, and it shows. As programming and outreach coordinator at Anne Arundel County Public Library (AACPL) since 2012, Davenport identified a need for the library to step up as a community leader in early literacy intervention and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programming. In one month last fall, AACPL offered 32 new STEM programs for children of all ages. That compared to just a few STEM-focused programs previously.
Davenport, who spent most of her career as a library associate, has lots of experience working with her immediate school community, but her job as coordinator expands her customer service to the entire school system and community. “This initiative…clearly displays the public library’s ability to enhance the education received in the classroom. School is the meat and potatoes, but we get to be the dessert,” she says. The expansion was funded by a grant she wrote that yielded $15,000.
“Shelley spearheaded a major change in children’s programming philosophy and practice,” says nominator and AACPL virtual services manager Stephanie Petruso. Davenport led a task force that prioritized early childhood literacy outreach; established the new role of early literacy specialist (previously programmers were all “generalists”); standardized procedures, policies, and goals; created early literacy program kits; and collaborated with early education organizations like the local Early Childhood Coalition and Judy Center.
“We’re basically going from each of our 15 branches offering approximately 24 literacy programs a year to each branch offering around 144 a year, both in and out of the library,” says Davenport. The initiative aims to ensure equality and quality of service across branches. As of February 2014, 46 (out of a projected 50) early literacy specialists—some new hires, some already on staff at AACPL who have a passion for working with young children—had been trained.
Davenport—who says “my career slowed a little” when her four children, including triplets, were young—has a background in PR and describes her role in the recent culture shift at AACPL as part salesperson, part cheerleader. “[Libraries are] an integral piece of the [early childhood literacy] puzzle,” especially for at-risk/underserved children, she says. She aims to make AACPL’s branches go-to spaces for families and children. “I say we turn libraries into community centers full of life!”