April 17, 2018

K.C. Boyd | Movers & Shakers 2015 — Change Agents

K.C. Boyd


Library Media Specialist and Director of Social Media, Wendell Phillips Academy High School, Academy for Urban School Leadership Network, Chicago

MS, Education, Library Science and Information Technology, Chicago State University, 2002; MA, Education, Administration, Governors State University, 2008; PhD in progress, Dominican University, LIS

Queen of Street Lit

@Boss_Librarian; missdomino.blogspot.com; theaudaciouslibrarian.blogspot.com; phillipslmc.weebly.com

Photo by Bob Stefko

Against the Odds

When fellow educators and librarians warned high school librarian K.C. Boyd against using street lit with her students, Boyd listened—to her patrons. “What kids are interested in is not what we were interested in,” she says.

Boyd has long championed urban fiction in the face of skepticism, from starting what was among the nation’s first Street Lit Nook Book Clubs for high schoolers to presenting on the genre at conferences. Her efforts have been particularly significant at Wendell Phillips Academy High School, a once failing school on Chicago’s South Side that is now—with her help—flourishing. Many of her students live in areas plagued by gang violence and have grown up without library access. Street lit speaks to them, she says. “These stories reflect what’s going on in their neighborhoods and lives.”

Boyd’s willingness to go against the grain has transformed her school’s reading culture. “When I visited…the flow of students coming in and out of the library…was astonishing,” says Chicago Public Library staffer Ryan Allen. More than 700 books were checked out in September 2014, up from 288 in September 2011, and once reluctant readers are now consuming everything from realistic fiction to manga to the classics. And it’s resonating: Boyd recalls one teen who told her that the ruthlessness of the protagonist in The Great Gatsby reminded him of a street lit character.

Though she faces daunting challenges, Boyd is relentless when it comes to empowering her students. She’s pioneered Wendell Phillips’s social media, making dynamic use of Pinterest. She has also developed Behind the Paws, a student-produced YouTube news show that has instilled a sense of pride, highlighting accomplishments such as athletic wins and talent shows.

With modest resources—the videos are filmed and produced on iPads obtained through one of Boyd’s own grant-writing efforts—she’s made a lasting impression on her students, several of whom plan to pursue careers in journalism. “Here we have these kids who are from a neighborhood that most people won’t even go into,” she says. “[But] they’re articulate, they’re funny, they’re creative, they’re talented. We wanted to show…what we have at this school.”

This is far from Boyd’s first time in the pages of the library press: she was recently featured on the cover of School Library Journal, LJ‘s sister publication. You can read the cover story here.

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Empowering Teens: Fostering the Next Generation of Advocates
Teens want to make a difference and become advocates for the things they care about. Librarians working with young people are in a unique position to help them make an impact on their communities and schools. Ignite your thinking and fuel these efforts at your library through this Library Journal online course—April 24 & May 8.


  1. Tamela Chambers says:

    Congratulations KC, I’m so proud to say I know you!

  2. Robbie Hall says:

    Congratulations! I seek urban children’s programming
    models to follow as I hope to start my first librarian job.

  3. Mary Ellen Coleman says:

    An innovative, creative virtuoso of library science, education and thought expansion for students.
    Ms. Boyd is a wonder to behold when interacting with her media and students. She fosters and encourages critical thinking and exploration of possibilities that media presents for our young people. Truly old school which is much needed.

  4. Marsha L. Edney says:

    So excited for you to be recognized by Library Journal! Thanks for your contributions to advocacy for our YA’s and #txlchat! marsha

  5. This was a great article highlighting what can be done when we empower our change agents to lead our young minds. #LetsGoWildCats!

  6. Rose Caldwell says:

    KC Boyd represents the 21st Century Library Media Specialist who effectively combines relevant print and digital resources for today’s learners. The Chicago Public School system should be searching for a KC Boyd to staff those libraries that have been closed.

  7. Don Hamerly says:

    KC demonstrates just how transformative and powerful a passionate school librarian can be! You make us proud!

  8. DL Grant Jr says:

    Keep doing the amazing things you do. Your vision is making our communities stronger. We love you!

  9. Joseph McEwing says:

    The students are becoming more fascinated with reading because they are being allowed to read books that they can relate to. As students read more, they will become comfortable with reading and branch out of their comfort zone and discover other genres.
    Ms. Boyd has opened the door of knowledge for my classmates and I at Wendell Phillips. She is truly a good teacher, mentor, and community leader.

  10. Miani Campbell says:

    Congrats! It’s absolutely wonderful to see Ms. Boyd receiving recognition for her hard work. Aside from her work in the library, Ms. Boyd has sponsored my club, the Anime Club. Ms. Boyd has encouraged us to arm ourselves with knowledge and to exceed the stereotypes used against us. She’s an inspiration to me, and to many others.

  11. My experiences with Ms.Boyd are extravagant to say the least. Not a day goes by without her fussing at me in order to do better. But in the end I know she loves me. Since I moved to Chicago she has been a type of mother figure to me that I didn’t have growing up; she helped me become accustomed to life in a big city among real people. Before Chicago I had lived most of my life in the suburbs never knowing what life as an African-American young man really was. I would have honestly never survived life in Chicago had I never met her and that’s all because I wanted to check out an origami book.

    • Cameron…that is one of the most profound statements you could make. To see the difference between where you lived before and now and to know that there is a vast difference is really seeing the change and what one dedicated person can do.

      Keep reading. Reading educates, entertains and inspires. I work for that in each of my novels. Good luck to you in your studies and life. May it go well with you. James A. Misko, author

  12. Quintus Brown says:

    Just as ships stuck at sea in treacherous storms needed a beacon to guide them to safe harbor, Ms. Boyd is the modern lighthouse for students in treacherous circumstances. Ironically, the kids have to steer the rudder to ensure safe passage. While there is no guarantee of success, without the experience and guidance, Kimberly offers, failure is imminent. This is an amazing example of why it matters to care.

  13. To me it’s really great that Ms. Boyd let’s the kids read Street Lit books. Also Ms. Boyd is a great listener and a good motivator. I’m so glad that she’s being recognized as Mover and Shaker.

  14. Ms. K.C.Boyd has been very helpful to me and my academic growth. She has always been there for me with books for projects, computer assistance, and personal help with colleges. Her positive attitude and motherly energy has been great for Phillips high school. Ms.Boyd is one of the greatest people in the school and by far one of the most influential people here in the school. She has been through much and has still perceiver through it all to give the students of Phillips the best experience possible here.

  15. Ms.Boyd has brought a fantastical element to the school, truly a wonderful asset. She has created such a lovely environment within our library media center, it is such a peaceful place. We can go to the library media center and know that everybody has their common sense intact! It is where multitudes of students come to learn, work, create, and seek advice. She has done such a wonderful job in also sponsoring the Anime/Manga Club and she works diligently within the Behind The Paws. She has done such a wonderful job and her presence is felt throughout the building. I hope she continues the good work as an inspiration and life check to the various students that drop by for a visit. Touching hearts along the way.

  16. Jada henderson says:

    Being one of your first students, I am very proud of all of your efforts to make reading and using technology a primary goal within the school system. Yes many of us are from bad neighborhoods, however, a neighborhood doesn’t determine how articulate we are. You have indeed showed the world that your students can read and obtain knowledge just as any child anywhere else. Very proud of you and very thankful for what you do to promote reading and learning within Phillips H.S.

  17. Myiah Levy says:

    A lot of high school in Chicago do not have a library in them, but libraries are needed to help students improve their reading and comprehension skills. Ms. Boyd has been a tremendous help and influence for the students at Wendell Phillips. She has encouraged them to read more by providing books that either relate to them or within their interest. She helped students receive high reading scores on the ACT’s. On a daily bases a lot of students go in and out of the library checking out books, some students checked out over 200 books within one year at Phillips. If more Chicago high schools had libraries we would see a positive jump in reading ACT scores.

  18. I have been impressed by the catchwords …Against all odds. What a true educator you. Yes encouraging children to develop a culture of reading is the most precious gift that the young will to cherish. It has been observed that children who are exposed to books from Grade 1 to 3 will be very competent as compared to those who miss out on reading and comprehension at this tender age. I much appreciate the good work you are doing and this helps develop well informed children who will grow up to be good citizens.

    Congratulations on being among the top 50 Movers and Shakers.


    Hosea Tokwe

  19. Congratulations Ms. Boyd!!

    I was just having a conversation with someone this weekend about how often we criticize our youth by saying “they don’t care about about education these days”.
    My rebuttal is “do we really care about our youth being educated these days”. We cannot continue to expect them to embrace education the same way we did. The world has changed at such a fast pace, they have surpassed us in not “what” they think but “how” they think. Your contributions to our youth and keeping learning exciting and relevant for them is worthy of every reward and recognition you receive and then some. Keep fighting the good fight Ms. Boyd!!


    Rhonda F.