DC’s System of Informal Learning Institutions (AKA DC Public Library)

Richard Reyes-Gavilan joined the Education Town Hall to share his experience with the DC Public Library (DCPL), where he is now executive director. He described DC’s system of “informal institutions of learning,” from purchasing through librarians’ work to “put the right book in the hands of the right reader.”

Library Uncensored

DCPL has escaped the kinds of challenges to materials that libraries in other parts of the country have faced — see, e.g., “Frequently Challenged Books” — but the Library celebrates “Banned Books Week” to promote awareness around intellectual freedom and censorship. Its signature program this year included an “Uncensored” art exhibit and cocktails celebrating banned books. (A creme cocktail honoring Maurice Sendack’s In the Night Kitchen, for example.) Throughout the year, librarians in each branch work to share materials that reflect and challenge their communities.

School-Library Collaborations

Reyes-Gavilan also described new initiatives with both the DC Public Schools and the charter schools. One possible school-library initiative would involve joint purchasing and catalogueing to better coordinate resources for DCPS and public libraries. (A similar idea has already been pursued with success in this Missouri town.) Another initiative will put DCPL resources into a nearby charter school and monitor resultant changes, if any, in student reading and responses.

For more on school-community-library collaboration, listen to Track 3 here —

The DC Public Library Foundation, which helps make these programs possible, is mounting a new fund-raiser. Meanwhile, as community needs grow and change, all are encouraged to help envision the future of the city’s main library.

Richard Reyes-Gavilan comes to the DC Public Library system with almost 19 years of public library experience. Before joining the DC Public Library,
Reyes-Gavilan worked at the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), the nation’s fifth-largest public library system as measured by population served.

Prior to joining Brooklyn Public Library, Rich worked for more than 12 years at the New York Public Library (NYPL). Reyes-Gavilan earned a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Texas at Austin and an undergraduate degree in literature from the State University of New York at Albany. He is also a graduate of Coro Leadership New York, an intensive nine-month program focused on public policy and leadership. He was born in Jamaica, Queens, to Cuban immigrants.

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