April 23, 2018

The Heart of Transformation: Shaped By the Moment, Anchored in Mission | Editorial

We seem to be creating a new level of humane library—as this year’s Movers & Shakers illustrate. Welcoming a new class of Movers offers an occasion to celebrate the many creative, passionate, and committed people who work in this field. For me, the process of selecting each Mover & Shaker from the many nominations is an opportunity to see just how robust individual effort, supported by enabling organizations, can be—and how impactful.

This year was especially emotionally rich as the stories of compassion-driven innovation piled up. In so many cases, where a community had a need, the library was a source of a kind approach to a resolution. Sometimes that meant stepping out of the comfort zone. Chera Kowalski’s relatively well-known story is a dramatic example. She is the intrepid Philadelphia librarian who responded to an epidemic of opioid overdoses in the park near her branch by literally stepping in to save lives. She asked for support from the Free Library of Philadelphia to have her colleagues trained on overdose reversals and got it—she herself revived six people last year by administering the drug Narcan. Her efforts garnered national media attention, which continues to enrich the perception of what librarians do when faced with a community need.

The bulk of Movers, of course, are comparatively unsung but accomplish considerable positive change as well. And, as we’ve always believed here at LJ, the Movers represent the many others in the field who are continually evolving to meet emerging community needs. These exemplars give us 50 ways forward. Andrea Blackman shows how to activate a special collection to confront racism. Tracey Wong models how to use Maker tech to empower kids to solve a local problem. Laurie Allen preserves access to government climate data. Emma Hernández enables digital inclusion well beyond the library. Margo Gustina supports social justice work by powerfully framing the core values of librarianship in a politically charged atmosphere. And that’s just the start.

For Francine Fialkoff, who cofounded Movers & Shakers in 2002 as editor in chief of LJ and is now its project manager, this year’s overarching theme is inclusivity. “They’re narrowing the opportunity gaps caused by poverty, education, technology, race, ethnicity, gender, [dis]ability and more,” she writes as she introduces the 50 individuals who make up the class of 2018. “They’re expanding upon traditional perceptions of libraries without leaving behind those who value such traditions. And in doing so, they’re moving all libraries forward.”

Fialkoff hasn’t stopped being amazed by the folks who make this field so meaningful, but this year’s cohort packs special power for her. “Their words and their work inspire me, and they should inspire us all,” Fialkoff told me. “Anyone discouraged about the state of this country should read these profiles and take heart.”

I certainly do. I am also moved by what I see as an important dynamic at work. We talk about libraries transforming communities, which is no doubt true of the institutions that empower these Movers. However, it’s also interesting to think about how the work each of these 50 people do is being conversely transformed by their communities. Ultimately, their institutions are being revolutionized as well. This fluidity and flexibility are essential in our ever-changing ecosystem. We’re all the better for it.

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

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller (miller@mediasourceinc.com) is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.

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