Alumni Reflections from “I Love My Librarian” recipient Carol Levers

Carol LeversI was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and grew up under the Apartheid Regime. My family filed for political asylum after we immigrated to the U.S. in 1989. I began volunteering part-time at the West Wyandotte Library in Kansas City, KS. I attended the Kansas City, KS Community College and completed my Associate’s degree in 1993. I transferred to Park University, where I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Human Resources Management.

I applied to Emporia School of Library Information Management to obtain my Master’s in Library Science in 1998. It was a two-hour commute and took a toll on my finances. I also did not have a reliable car and decided to call it quits. The same day that I planned to cancel my studies at Emporia, I received a call indicating that I had received a Spectrum scholarship. The award literally saved my life. I resumed my studies and obtained my MLS through the SLIM program at Emporia State.

I started as Outreach Librarian and loved what I did. In 2001 I received the Outstanding Recent Graduate award from Emporia. I received the “I Love My Librarian Award” in 2008 in New York City, hosted by Carnegie Corporation of New York. I served twice as president of The Kansas City Kansas Women’s Chamber and served on the Kansas City Kansas Area Chamber Board for that duration. I served for over 17 years on the Kansas City Kansas Community College Endowment Board and the organization’s Foundation Board.

In 2015 I was inducted into the KCKCC’s Mid-America Education Hall of Fame. I also serve on the United Way Board of Wyandotte County. I represent Wyandotte County on the Northeast Kansas Library System’s (NEKLS) Executive Board and serve on many other local and statewide boards. I helped write a grant for “Emporia Diversity Initiative: Matching Recruitment with Retention Strategies,” with Dr. Agada, for which we received $857,754 designed to recruit, train and retain local minority library staff and students for library service in Kansas, Colorado and Oregon and 42 students benefited.

In 2010, I became the first woman and person of color to become the Director of Libraries for the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library system, managing five public and 43 school libraries as well as fleet of three mobile libraries. None of this would have been possible without the SPECTRUM INITIATIVE! Thank You!

I immensely admire Sandra Rios Balderrama, my mentor, and Dr. Carla Hayden, The 14th Librarian of Congress, who worked timelessly to make the Spectrum initiative work. Spectrum’s future matters because it is still difficult to get people of color into the library. We need to start looking at assisting undergraduates that show potential.

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