The Library Journal recently named SOIS alum Jamar Rahming (MLIS ’08) one of its 2023 Movers & Shakers in the Community Builder category. Each year, the Journal honors “The People Shaping the Future of Libraries” in its Movers & Shakers edition.
Rahming, the executive director of the Wilmington Public Library in Delaware, was honored for his innovative programming and community outreach at the library.
Since he became executive director in 2018, Rahming has brought in numerous celebrities to promote reading and libraries. Among those who have made in-person appearances are: Angela Davis, LeVar Burton, Dolly Parton (who selected WPL for her early childhood reading initiative), Dennis Rodman, Pam Grier, Anthony Ray Hinton, Jennifer Lewis, Malcolm Jamal Warner, and a cast reunion of A Different World.
The Wilmington library also organized the city’s inaugural Juneteenth celebration in 2021—one of the city’s first major public events in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic—headlined by renowned rapper KRS-One.
“Pop culture and the arts and humanities create social cohesion,” Rahming told the Library Journal. “It builds bridges; it brings people together because it’s something that we all agree on.”
He told the Library Journal he was proud of the fact that a number of the library’s capacity-crowd events have drawn residents from every zip code, socioeconomic class, race, and demographic that the library serves.
Terry O’Byrne, president of the Wilmington Library Board, who nominated Rahming, said that when Rahming joined WPL, he aimed to “empower this community by first empowering his staff.” Rahming’s reinvigoration of WPL and fundraising skills also drew $720,000 for capital improvements,” O’Byrne added.
Rahming’s approach has helped lead to partnerships with local barbershops to develop a literacy program for at-risk youth; an alliance with the Delaware Black Chamber of Commerce for an annual “Pitch or Ditch” minority small business competition, with $15,000 in cash prizes for local entrepreneurs; and many other initiatives.
“The library is a citadel of democracy and intellectual freedom,” says Rahming, “and we’re a space that welcomes all ideas and all people.”