She has been called Wonder Woman, a community hero, a guardian angel—and this year, the Library Journal called Shanika Heyward a 2016 Mover and Shaker.
The 2010 Master of Library Science graduate is an inspiration to those she serves as community branch manager of the East 38th Street Indianapolis Public Library—and to everyone who has seen her transform her life, the lives of her patrons, and the future of libraries.
There were roadblocks in Heyward’s path to graduate school at the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI. A teen mother who grew up in Indianapolis, Heyward was determined to be the first in her family to go to college—for the sake of her daughter Shanequia Gill, and to honor her beloved late grandmother Alice Kennedy, who took Heyward to the library regularly during her childhood.
“Libraries help revitalize struggling and depressed communities,” says Heyward, whose dozens of pioneering, philanthropic library projects—such as a food program for children, GED classes, Breakfast with a Cop, and a day care story time that focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects—put her in an elite class of professionals who have earned the Library Journal honor.
Hayward’s dynamic leadership exemplifies the type of professional the program aims to develop. “My professors, mentors, and support team at the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI gave me the confidence and competencies to be successful, innovative, and resourceful in our knowledge-based society,” says Heyward, who considers completing her master’s degree in library and information science one of her greatest achievements.
All who know and love “Sister Shanika” benefit from her greatest achievement—supporting Indianapolis children and adults who have limited resources and opportunities. “Librarians are change agents,” Heyward says, “improving the quality of life for the people we serve.”
Photo by Paul Best