Cathy Gulley Evans
Director of Libraries
St. Mary's Episcopal School: James Frederick Smith Library
Cathy has transformed the library at St. Mary's Episcopal School into a center for inquiry, collaboration, and self-expression. As one colleague writes, “Cathy lives as an example for other budding scholars."
Thanks to Cathy’s efforts, the James Frederick Smith Library is a space where students feel comfortable exploring difficult topics. She launched the “Fireside Chats” series, in which students lead conversations with their peers and teachers about sensitive issues like gun control and Confederate monuments; school leaders cite this program as building a more supportive, courageous culture across the school. Cathy also collaborated with school guidance counselors to develop a collection of self-help books on topics like anxiety and eating disorders, which are kept in a secluded section of the library so students can access them privately and anonymously.
Cathy strives to promote a culture of reading and lifelong learning that will stay with students long after they graduate. At her Cupcakes and Cool Reads event, teachers, coaches, and administrators share their favorite books (and baked goods) with students, modeling how adults from all walks of life are passionate about reading. She also hosts a College Libraries 101 program for graduating seniors, where students get to know their future college library’s website and even Skype with their soon-to-be librarians.
Cathy also advocates for libraries beyond St. Mary’s. When an author visits the library, she arranges for them to stay an extra day at Memphis and speak at local public schools so that even more children can benefit. She also recently invited two Tennessee congressmen to the library for a conversation with students, who made a powerful case to their legislators about the importance of federal library funding.