Posted March 25, 2019
Many librarians can only dream about working for the Library of Congress. But for Pamela Nash Davenport (MLIS, ’95), it’s a reality. Davenport is a network consultant for the LOC’s National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. She’ll share about her journey to librarianship as guest speaker for the School of Library and Information Science’s 2019 Deans’ and Directors’ Lecture in April.
We caught up with her to learn more about her work promoting equitable access, her thoughts on modern libraries and her memories of Davis College.
Tell us about what you do in your current job.
I’m a network consultant for the Midlands and Western Regions for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). I consult with and serve as a mentor for 26 regional libraries. As such, I provide consultant services concerning all aspects of library service to blind and physically handicapped readers.
What’s the most interesting or significant thing you’ve done since graduating?
Helping and encouraging others to become librarians. To me, that is so important because that’s what was done for me. During undergraduate studies, I attended Claflin University, an HBCU, and had a work-study job in the library. A group of Claflin librarians felt it was their “appointed” duty to recruit librarians of color who could one day take their place. Thus, I was anointed by those librarians. So, with their encouragement and blessings, I pursued my library career. At first I ran away from it, and after college, my very first “real” job was in a public library. I am pleased to say that a few of them got to see that I followed the path and became a librarian — they were so proud. I also have to admit that in keeping with that tradition, I too have made several librarians along the way.
Since graduating, I have mentored and encouraged many who have become librarians. It gives me sense of pride to see librarians that I’ve mentored go on to be great assets in the field of librarianship and doing amazingly well in the profession.
What are you passionate about in your work?
I am passionate about everyone having equitable access to technology and literacy tools that can enhance their lives, as well as promoting resources for individuals to learn differently. As a part of my job, I consult with a network of libraries that work diligently to ensure that people who are visually impaired, blind or physically disabled have access to reading materials. After working in and managing libraries for so many years, being a consultant at the Library of Congress was the ultimate position. Every librarian should want to work for, be affiliated with or at least visit the Library of Congress in their career.
In your opinion, what role do modern libraries serve in their communities?
Libraries serve as trusted and safe places that are always open to the public. Libraries are a Mecca of knowledge, places where there are no limits, places where you are free to learn about everything. These knowledge centers act as community spaces where programs and relationship building help create a rather robust neighborhood that thrives on diversity and inclusivity.
What did you learn while in school at the CIC that still resonates today?
I learned that libraries and the profession are important, and that children play a vital role in the scheme of things. If we want to be successful, it is important that we create lifelong readers and learners. For years it’s been said that there would not be a need for librarians and the profession is a dying one. There will always be a need for libraries and for the librarian. There is no substitute for the human touch.
Do you have a favorite professor or a favorite memory from your time at the CIC? Dr. Pat Feehan was my mentor and a favorite professor. I, of course, had several favorites — too many to name. I was a favorite to many professors along the journey.
Being a student in Davis College was an opportunity of a lifetime. It was a good fit for me as an adult student with the responsibilities of family and home. The flexibility of the program allowed me to pursue a degree while continuing to work a full-time job. The faculty and staff made learning fun. More importantly, the support and encouragement they gave me during my years at the School of Library and Information Science was priceless. After graduation I remained a part of the school by being an adjunct, a mentor and a recruiter. I dare say that I have recruited my share of librarians — and enjoyed every moment of my efforts. Giving back to the college has been truly rewarding.