Paula Kelly

Paula Kelly

Library director
Whitehall Public Library
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

For Paula there is nothing more rewarding than being a librarian

Paula promotes equity and inclusion through her work with underserved populations, particularly immigrants and refugees. One community leader proclaimed, “America needs more Paulas.”

Every month, the library sends a bus to pick up immigrant families to bring them to the library where they can check out materials and socialize. For many displaced Bhutanese families, these visits are important trips to engage with their community and avoid social isolation. Paula also provides information and speakers on topics to help families assimilate to their new area.

Working with other local organizations, Paula helped create a book project to preserve refugees’ stories. To date, eight books have been published. She collaborated with the Bhutanese community to develop materials about their culture to educate longtime residents about their new neighbors.

With the help of a grant, Paula transformed a room into the Second Chapter Café, a warm and cozy space for the area’s older residents to learn about technology, discuss current events and watch popular movies. 

She also goes beyond the building’s wall to bring pop-up library services to outdoor movie nights, farmers’ markets and other community events.    

Paula hopes her work as a librarian will have an impact. She said, “I firmly believe that libraries change lives, as do librarians! We are so fortunate to bear witness to that. It never gets old and it’s rarely what you expect it will be.”

Paula Kelly full nomination (PDF)