Young Adult Librarian, Levittown Public Library, NY
MLS, Queens College, CUNY, 2009
A book for ABC-CLIO on Strong Girls is due out in late 2017
Photo by Ryan Loewy
Nancy Evans, young adult librarian at New York’s Levittown Public Library, got the idea for her young adult (YA) program Strong Girls School after she shared YA author Maureen Johnson’s post “Why Do We Photoshop People?” with the girls in her writing program. They loved it, and their reaction inspired Evans to develop a program to support and empower girls as they deal with gender issues such as self-esteem.
The seeds of the program were planted, however, during Evans’s own education. “YA isn’t a good fit if you’re wishy-washy,” says Evans. As a second-career MLS student, Evans learned to advocate for herself and teens in library school classes with Mary K. Chelton—cofounder of VOYA magazine, GSLIS professor emerita at CUNY Queens College, and 2016 winner of NoveList’s Margaret E. Monroe Library Adult Services Award. “In a sense, Mary K. set me on the path toward developing [Strong Girls School] by being a strong feminist role model and sparking my interest in how women behave in the workplace,” says Evans.
Once Evans had worked through her own fears of offering a “risky” program (“Taking a Risk,” VOYA, June 2015), she started Strong Girls School with a few sessions for a small group of middle and high school girls. When the initial program was over, the girls wanted to keep going. Now, some from that first group are coleaders and mentors, and the group still meets weekly, with Evans as facilitator.
Strong Girls School has had a small, powerful impact, and for Evans that’s what matters most. “[You] don’t always have the opportunity to do the type of work that gets noticed, but that doesn’t mean that what you do isn’t meaningful,” she says. “Social change begins with individuals.”
Meanwhile, to spread that impact beyond her local area, she shares the Strong Girls model at conferences (including the American Library Association 2017 annual meeting in Chicago), online at Programming Librarian, and in a forthcoming book.