Siva Ramakrishnan and Steven Mahoney Receive Movers & Shakers Honor from Library Journal

By NYPL Staff
May 1, 2024

Every year, those who work in libraries around the world turn their attention to Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers, a distinction which honors and identifies important talents in the library world. A total of 50 library workers were honored this year, including two New York Public Library workers:  Associate Director of Adult English Language and Literacy Steven Mahoney, who was named a Community Builder, and Director of Young Adult Programs & Services Siva Ramakrishnan, who was named a Change Agent.

Read more about their innovative work on behalf of teens and newly-arrived New Yorkers. 

Steven Mahoney stands in front of a glass railing with several floors containing bookshelves behind him

Steven Mahoney, photo: NYPL

Steven Mahoney

As Associate Director of Adult English Language and Literacy, Steven spearheads programs and classes that serve newly-arrived New Yorkers. NYPL has long been the largest non-municipal provider of free adult English classes in New York City. But the recent influx of asylum seekers to New York City meant that the Library had to not only increase its offerings, but also tailor the program to meet the unique needs of this population. Steven expanded drop-in class options which, unlike the Library’s traditional ESOL classes, do not require pre-registration and provide flexible scheduling. The Library, under Steven’s leadership, also conducted targeted outreach at city shelters that housed the migrant population to spread the word about the new programs. 

The hard work has paid off. During the last term alone, his team enrolled over 4,000 students, which was a 17% increase over the previous year.  For the year, the Library's ESOL program has provided over 15,000 classroom seats, which is 39% more than last year.

But don’t take our word for it—below are some quotes from participants in the ESOL classes.

"As soon as I arrived in New York, I learned that the library offered free resources and enrolled in ESOL classes at the NYPL in order to improve my English so that I could get a job… The library has prepared me for my new life in NYC and given me the confidence to explore the many opportunities that are offered here." —Yamille from Venezuela.

“After I had been involved in English classes for one month, I had a new interview, and guess what? I was hired, which means a better life for me, my kids, and my wife.” —Mogly from the Dominican Republic

“After working alone at home for a few months, I subscribed to my first English class. And that literally changed my life: I met lovely classmates, improved my English a lot, and gained the confidence to express myself in English in my daily life. This was the real beginning of my New York life: I was able to interact with the shopkeepers and my neighbors, I made friends, and I found a job!” —Marie from France

“Now I’m able to be independent and depend on myself. I feel good knowing my reading and writing are getting better. I feel proud of who I am today.” —Mary from the Bronx

Siva Ramakrishnan stands near a bookshelf in a large library reading room

Siva Ramakrishnan, photo: NYPL

Siva Ramakrishnan

After the pandemic, it was clear that teens needed their local library. Numerous studies showed they were suffering from isolation, depression, anxiety, and lack of community.  In recognition of this public health crisis among young people, the Library created Teens 360°, a system-wide initiative to holistically support the development and well-being of teens all over the city. These programs and initiatives are part of the Library’s Tisch Youth Education Programs.

This effort includes revitalizing the teen spaces in our branches to create a welcoming and creative environment for young people, alongside resources and programming designed to meet them where they are both today and in the future. The newly enhanced Teen Centers focus on interest-driven learning supporting digital literacy and technology skills, teen empowerment, civic engagement, the exploration of teen voice, mental wellness, college and career readiness skills, and meaningful teen employment. In the past year alone, the Library, under Siva’s leadership, has opened 19 new teen centers in library branches all over the city in neighborhoods where these resources are most needed, featuring modern spaces where they can do homework, attend programs, record music, explore creative tools such as 3D printers, digital cameras, and sewing machines, access books and digital databases, and build community with their peers. 

Nana Adwoa, a Bronx teen, shared at Mott Haven Library’s Teen Center launch that “Through programs, workshops, and access to technology, libraries in the Bronx empower teens to develop vital skills that are essential in the 21st century. From coding and graphic design to music production and art, they offer opportunities for teens to explore new passions and the skills to prepare for a rapidly changing world.”

As part of the Library’s Teens 360º work, Siva’s team also helps lead the Library’s Teen banned books campaign, “Books for All,” which casts a national spotlight on the importance of young people having access to books that affirm and celebrate their identities, and that provide windows that allow teens to experience different aspects of the world around them. This school year, Books for All features a Teen Banned Book Club that provides national access to select young adult titles that have been banned or challenged and a national writing contest inviting teens to explain why the freedom to read is important in their lives. 

Overall, these efforts have made NYPL popular with more teens: teens’ attendance at programs across the library system has increased by 125% in the last year!

“We're very proud of the work Steven and Siva are doing at NYPL—their efforts show the importance of libraries in our communities,” said Brian Bannon, Merryl and James Tisch Director Branch Libraries and Education. “No matter where you are in life, your library is here for you and has the services to help you excel. Siva’s work with teens is helping create a new generation of patrons, and Steven’s work with immigrants is opening the wonders of this city to our newest neighbors. The work they do is making our city a better place.”

Undoubtedly, Steven and Siva have made NYPL branches more welcoming, accessible, and holistically serving the needs of its community. We congratulate both of them on this honor, and thank them for their work.

These programs and initiatives are part of the Library’s overall commitment to our branch patrons and education programs, led by the Merryl and James Tisch Director of Branch Libraries and Education. Major support for educational programming is provided by Merryl H. and James S. Tisch.

Patrons using the Teen Center at Van Cortlandt Library.

Teen Center at Van Cortlandt Library

Photo: NYPL