Library Media Specialist, Islip High School, NY
MLS, Queens College, CUNY, 1990
Seymour is currently working on a book, Makers with a Cause (Libraries Unlimited, due out in 2018)
Photo by Patrick Heagney
Maker, with Care
Gina Seymour’s grandmother was a clerk at the Queens Borough Public Library, NY, and as a kid, Seymour spent many hours there. Unlike at school, where her book selections were limited to those with the “pukey green” level label, she says, at grandma’s library she could read any book and learn about experiences different from her own.
Seymour has turned her drive to see other people’s perspectives into the Maker Care initiative, which transforms teens’ proclivity for hands-on creation into community outreach. Staff, from teachers to custodians to secretaries, have joined with students in making blankets, sleep mats, therapeutic cushions, dresses, and toys for homeless people, breast cancer survivors, hospital patients, African school girls, and abandoned pets.
A local elementary school is now modeling its character education program after Maker Care. “It gives kids experience with circumstances they may be lucky enough not to know about. That builds empathy,” says Seymour. “Design thinking requires empathy.”
Seymour’s daily inspiration is “the inclusion aspect.” Many of the students participating in Maker Care are English-language learners or in special ed classes. “They’re usually the ones receiving services. They feel so good serving others. It’s those populations that drive me,” says Seymour.
Seymour’s focus is “spreading the love.” She wants to show librarians, especially those in public libraries working in teen services, how to replicate her model. “Now is the time for focusing on kindness and inclusion,” she says.”