Meet Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, Director-at-Large
I have served as the executive director of the Houston (Tex.) Public Library (HPL) since 2005. Under my leadership, HPL has earned over thirty prestigious local, state, and national awards for services, programs, innovation, and building projects. In addition to serving on the PLA Board my current activities include the Urban Libraries Council Executive Board, the advisory boards of the Heritage Society, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, the University of North Texas School of Information, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Library and Information Science. I have a BA from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., an MLS from the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Madison, Wis.
Why I wanted to serve on the PLA Board
I wanted to serve as a member of the PLA Board to help chart the course for the future of public libraries. My extensive professional experiences, solid leadership skills, ability to think broadly and innovatively, and sheer excitement about the future of public libraries ensure that I will contribute significantly in this capacity. I think this time in our history presents us with a plethora of exciting opportunities to reimagine our spaces, our service models, our program delivery and, most importantly, the ways in which we market public libraries in today’s constantly changing digital environment.
My vision for the future of public libraries
I strongly believe that we are currently experiencing the most exhilarating and dynamic time in the history of public libraries. While the constant change and uncertainty we are experiencing in our local and national environments may impact our ability to plan for the long term, our mission remains undeterred - to ensure that public libraries remain vital, customer driven community spaces that not only provide innovative services and cutting edge programs, but also support civic engagement, equitable access to information, technology, and lifelong learning. Key to our future success is learning how to flip our challenges into opportunities, and to think differently, more broadly, and more creatively.
My favorite book
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Dr. Angelou's autobiographical story is particularly compelling to me because it reminds me of the many summers I spent in the south as a child in a similar environment. The story is very well written, the characters and scenes are very well developed, and they accurately depict that period in time. Dr. Angelou brilliantly used her story about the young years of her life to explore and highlight subjects such as literacy, identity, racism, fear, rape, and the roles of women.
Somewhere I love to frequent in my community
Whenever I can, I love to spend time in Discovery Green Park in downtown Houston. The park is always full of activity and attracts people from diverse cultures and walks of life. I especially enjoy the evening open air concerts with popular artists and watching children happily play in the water fountain to cool off. I also enjoy seeing people visit the small library HPL operates in the park. A visit to Discovery Green can be both invigorating and relaxing depending on what I'm in the mood for.
Photo: Rhea celebrating the 2015 holidays in February 2016 with her awesome leadership team and executive assistants.