March 16, 2018

Taneya Gethers | Movers & Shakers 2015 — Community Builders

Taneya Gethers


Senior Librarian, Macon Branch, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

MLIS, Drexel University, Philadelphia, 2007


Photo by Shani Jamila

The Grand Ms. T

Taneya Gethers isn’t just an advocate for culturally empowering programming. She is passionate about the community she serves—where she, her husband, and her four children reside. At the Macon Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), located in the borough’s largely African American Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, Gethers has become known for her popular programs that combine a commitment to celebrating culture with a strong dose of literacy as well.

Despite not having a formal program budget, she says, “providing programming that empowers and inspires” is central to her work. Her signature Early Literacy Program Series incorporates stories and music to celebrate the borough’s diversity and averages 65 attendees per week. A minigrant in 2014 enabled her to recognize the history of jazz in Bed-Stuy with three concerts. “Creativity, community insight, and relations with stakeholders—large and small—have been key” to her success, she says.

In 2014, Gethers coordinated BPL’s 2014 Genomics Community Programming. She partnered with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Human Genome Research Institute to develop a two-day event around Henrietta Lacks (1920–51), whose cells (known as HeLA) have been used in many medical advancements and whose life was documented in Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 best seller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Nearly 300 people, including members of Lacks’s family, feted Lacks through drumming, dancing, singing, poetry, and a community discussion with panelists from academic and public health communities “to promote the restoration of trust between communities of African descent and Western medical and science institutions,” she says.

Gethers says she believes in “creating a sense of ownership” among her youth and adult patrons. And they in turn respond to her efforts, affectionately calling her Ms. T.

Her effectiveness has been recognized beyond Bed-Stuy. While a student at Drexel University, Gethers was selected by the American Library Association as a Spectrum Scholar, and since graduating she has contributed chapters to such works as The 21st-Century Black Librarian in America: Issues and Challenges (Scarecrow, 2012) and Informed Agitation: Library and Information Skills in Social Justice Movements and Beyond (Library Juice, 2014).

Colleagues praise Gethers for her advocacy efforts, which include spearheading fundraising efforts to expand the collection for the Macon branch’s Dionne Mack-Harvin African American Center, organizing BPL’s response to the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, and using her journalism background to help promote the highly successful Buy-a-Book for Macon Campaign, the archetype for Support Our Shelves, BPL’s grassroots advocacy and fundraising initiative.

Coworker Shakema Miller says Gethers “has a special ability to bring people together, whether it’s promoting the library as a place of community to library patrons or inviting new partners to become supporters of the library.”

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



  1. Melissa M says:

    Congratulations, Taneya! Wonderful to see you recognized here.

  2. Congratulations, Taneya! I love it when my BPL co-workers get recognized for the great work they do.

  3. Edwin Maxwell says:

    Congratulations Taneya! You have been a source of inspiration for me for years, and you continue to touch the lives of everyone you come in contact with. I’m glad you are finally getting recognized. Thank you for sharing your gifts.

  4. Katya Schapiro says:

    Taneya’s breadth and depth of service are an inspiration, and on top of it she can rock a petal headdress like nobody’s business. You’re the total package, Ms. T.

  5. Patricia Howard says:

    Ase O, I recognized your Gift from the first day I met you, Congratulation. The Community benefited and appreciated all the high quality Programming at Macon Branch. Thankful I had the pleasure to work with you. Carry on Sister Taneya.

  6. Maxine Cooper says:

    I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with Taneya Gethers. Her professionalism, creativity, programming abilities are exceptional. She works tirelessly to achieve all that she sets out to accomplish. I am thrilled that she is receiving the recognition she truly deserves. Congratulations!!!

  7. Hearty congratulations and you are a shining start to your community.

    A true Mover and Shaker.!!!!!!


    Hosea Tokwe