February 17, 2018

Silvia Bunn | Movers & Shakers 2003

Carding the Neighborhood

When Silvia Bunn was assigned to head the Mildred L. Terry Branch of her library system, it was a declining facility in an impoverished area. She learned that this neglected place, disconnected from its community, was once a thriving community center, founded in the 1950s as the first library for blacks in then-segregated Columbus, GA. At that moment, the job became, Bunn says, “a moral assignment.”

During her first year, she spent as much time knocking on doors, introducing herself, as she did in the library itself. Before her library’s first Christmas program in 1999, she gathered up the neighborhood children and led them to the building like a Mother Goose.

To spread the word that the library was ready to be central to the community once again, Bunn got herself invited as guest speaker to every possible local organization. She spoke at PTA meetings in all the schools and the Masonic Lodge and to local pastors and the Girl Scouts. She partnered with the Urban League and served on the board of the Knight Foundation.

And everywhere she went, Bunn “carded” people. Community leaders, cops on the street, nurses, people who waited on her in the mall, job applicants at the employment office, and her son’s classmates all got library cards and an invitation to come to the library and bring a friend.

In partnership with the county’s employment office, Bunn provided space for the accelerated GED program sponsored by the local newspaper. She has encouraged both little children and teens to read by pairing them in a buddy program.

Since she took it over in 1999, the branch has seen a 150 percent increase in circulation, and it is so jammed with users that there is now discussion of seeking funds to double its size. She was selected in April 2000 as a community Asset Builder by the Pastoral Institute and the Columbus Ledger Enquirer.

As Pete Robinson, chair of the Muscogee County Library board, says, “If all librarians were like Bunn, there would be no illiteracy or children reading below grade level. She has found a successful formula for engaging the mind and making it fun.”


Current Position: Branch Manager, Mildred L. Terry Branch Library, Chattahoochee Valley Regional Library System, Columbus, GA

Degree: MLS, Clarke Atlanta University, 1999

Citations: Air Force Achievement and Good Conduct medals