As Carla Davis knows well, library storytime is a playful and magical experience— a time full of singing, dancing, playing, and yes— also reading stories. Storytime programs enable Carla to introduce babies and toddlers to the library, while also connecting with parents about ways to continue to support their child’s literacy and learning.
“The library is about exploration, and I love that I get to bring that to children,” said Carla.
Carla, or even “Ms. Carla” as some of her young storytime attendees often like to call her, is a Youth Librarian at Midland Library, and she organizes several storytimes each week, in addition to serving as a storytime mentor teaching other library staff how to build age appropriate storytime curriculum and connect with young patrons. Carla is also part of Multnomah County Library’s Black Cultural Library Advocates (BCLA) team which focuses on bringing culturally relevant materials, programs and services to the Black community.
Since the closure of Multnomah County libraries in mid-March due to COVID-19, librarians like Carla have continued to support the community through this crisis. Carla has been working with a team of other Youth Librarians and BCLA staff to bring their storytimes online (find Carla’s virtual Black storytimes on the MCL Youtube It’s Black Storytime playlist). In addition, she is working with the Black Cultural Library Advocates Team to provide valuable resource information online for the Black community— everything from food and health to educational resources. Carla also volunteered to support Multnomah County’s emergency shelters, working shifts at the Oregon Convention Center shelters.
“It was a valuable opportunity for my teammates and I to serve in the shelters. It’s always rewarding to not only help, but to meet and get to know great people who reside there,” said Carla
Carla started her career with Multnomah County Library as a Clerk. She later went on to earn her Masters in Library Science from Pratt University in New York. She’s worked with various libraries such as Atlanta Fulton Public, and Shearman and Sterling Law Library as an intern. Like many library professionals, she was drawn to a career in the library from a love of books.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Carla was working with a team of library staff from across the county on a community engagement project with the Coalition of Communities of Color aimed at helping prepare Black children ages 0-6, and their families, for kindergarten.
The project is supported by the Equitable Education Grant from Meyer Memorial Trust and The Library Foundation. Recently, she initiated a survey at the largest national Martin Luther King (MLK) program in Portland. It included parents of Black children ages 0-6, and their awareness of library storytimes and services.
“It is my hope that as our Education Equity team learns more about the needs of parents and educators, that Multnomah County Library will be a major conduit through which educational gaps will be filled in even more creative ways as a result of these and other kinds of assessments.”
Carla’s dedication and service to children and families was recently nationally recognized by the American Library Association, and awarded the 2020 Random House Penguin Young Readers Group Award and stipend for her comprehensive programming efforts at Midland Library. Beyond organizing and delivering numerous weekly storytimes, Carla hosted a teen-led Teen Talent Showcase and organized a Black History Gospel Timeline that shows how gospel music developed from the 18th century to the present day.
“Being in a library is the best kind of ‘work,” she said. “I love to be in an environment where I can “theoretically” read— even though in reality I’m usually busy preparing for programs, working with community organizations, and helping youth and families navigate the library.”
After more than 20 years in library service, Carla sees the library evolving as a hub for the community, especially as people look to the library for services beyond books and traditional programs.
“As we shift in the way we serve due to the crisis, thankfully the library has always been a viable source of online information and resources, and we will continue to expand the ways we deliver to our users.”