It's always gratifying when conscientious work is recognized in a big way, especially when the person being honored toils out of the public eye.
In this case, let's open the book on Rhonda Allison Rios Kravitz, the dean of the Learning Resources Center at Sacramento City College. She is among 10 librarians from around the country to recently win the I Love My Librarian Award, a program established in 2008. It recognizes librarians "for their service to their communities, schools and campuses" and comes with a plaque and a $5,000 cash prize. It's jointly sponsored by three major players the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the New York Times and the American Library Association.
"This is not a situation of librarians appreciating what their colleagues have done," pointed out an ALA spokeswoman. "Rather, it's about the real differences librarians are making every day in their patrons' lives."
In a national online nomination process last summer, more than 1,700 library patrons named their favorite librarians and explained why. Excerpts from Kravitz's nomination letters reveal a lot about her, such as:
"She makes anything seem possible."
"Service-oriented, student-centered, open-minded and balanced in her treatment of every patron."
"Always has the students' and faculty's needs at the core of her decisions."
The New York Times feted Kravitz and the nine other honorees at a Dec. 8 reception and ceremony in New York City. Keynote speaker Caroline Kennedy said in part, "Librarians understand that the gift of knowledge is the greatest gift we can give to each other."
During our conversation, Kravitz remarked, "Libraries record what civilization is about. We are the collective memory for humanity, as (Carnegie Corp. President Vartan Gregorian) said."
Kravitz has been the Learning Resources Center dean since 2007. Among her degrees are a master's in library science from Simmons College in Boston and a doctorate in public administration from the University of Southern California.
For more information, visit www.atyourlibrary.org.
The letters of nomination sent to the committee were quite an endorsement of you as an administrator and a person.
I was so deeply humbled by the nominations. Receiving the award reflects more on the people I serve, not myself. I'm now a dean, but I have been a librarian for over 30 years and will always be a librarian. That's my key rationale for being. Libraries are not just repositories of knowledge, they're places of self-renewal that talk about who we are.
How was the ceremony itself?
It was totally extraordinary. We (winners) met before the reception and recognized that all of us have this very deep commitment to fighting for the existence of libraries, because they're always under attack. They're sort of apple pie, yet we're never given enough apples to put in the pie. That is, we don't have the resources we need to provide the kind of access we wish to give.
What's the most important part of your job?
I oversee a number of areas and have a broad range of services underneath me. But what drives us all is the passion we have for student success and serving our students in ways that meet their needs.
(For instance) we use the LRC building to highlight the work a number of our students do. Yesterday we held the guitar final (exam) in the LRC, and I display our students' science projects and art. I want people to know the abilities of our students.
Has the role of the librarian changed?
Yes, but what has not changed is what we are about. Access to information and creating opportunities without cost have always been and will always be the roles of the librarian.
It's how we obtain and distribute that information through new technology that has changed dramatically. Now you can get information from libraries 24/7.
Wouldn't it have been wonderful to visit the ancient library of Alexandria?
Yes, I say that all the time. I think of all the libraries that have existed in the world, and all the information that has been destroyed (by wars). It is so important that information is always there and always accessible, and we need to fight for that. We librarians are a very passionate group.
You mentor many students. What is your best piece of wisdom to share with them?
To strive to be the best they can be. If I can help them in any way to reach that capability, then I see that as part of my purpose in life.
Do librarians still say, "Shhhh!"
No! That's a horrible stereotype and I want it dispelled. We (oversee) lively places you should want to be in. They should never be distorted by "Shhhh!"
Oh, and I do not wear my hair in a bun, either.