Community Branch Manager, E. 38th Street Branch, Indianapolis Public Library
MLS, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, 2010
Photo by pauldbestphoto.com
A teen single mother, Shanika Heyward began her library career as a work-study student from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. “I faced obstacles…that could have caused me to fail,” she says, “but grace, a strong support system, and a thirst for knowledge have allowed me to beat the odds.”
Heyward’s promotion to manager in 2012 took her to the E. 38th Street branch of Indianapolis Public Library, in the neighborhood where she was raised, where almost 25 percent of the community lives in poverty. Dismayed at how few people used the library, she organized nontraditional events such as Breakfast with a Cop and collaborated with other groups to serve the community.
Using the library’s strategic plan as her road map, she developed a partnership with the Washington Township Adult Education Program, which provides a GED teacher, job coach, and teacher assistant for weekly classes. As of early 2016, there have been 14 graduates.
After seeing many children at the library all day in the summer, she realized they “were missing at least one meal, if not more,” daily. So she partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)–funded Summer Food Service Program to enable branch staff to feed 50–100 kids lunch every weekday.
Heyward also ramped up story time, which had dismal attendance, by adding STEM [science, technology, engineering, math]–based programs that coaxed day-care providers to bring their children. Since many parents in her community work and their young children are in federally funded day care, which requires a STEM-based component, Heyward’s efforts guaranteed the survival of the centers. “These programs are critical to the success [of the day-care centers],” says Heyward, who is extending the program to community centers and school-aged children. Heyward is passionate about giving others the chance to succeed, as she has.