Manya Shorr used to ditch school, grab a burrito and head to the library as a teen growing up in Pasadena. Little did she realize her love for the library would turn into a career that would eventually lead her to Fort Worth.
Now the director of the Fort Worth Library, Shorr is working to expand the library’s programs and services — including one that brings the internet to homes that otherwise would not have access.
Here, she talks books, her dreams for the future of the Fort Worth Library — and the last time she’s “shushed” anyone.
Q. What was your favorite children’s book growing up?
A. There are definitely books I read over and over as a kid. One favorite was Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I loved that book because it fueled my imagination. I could picture food raining down from the sky. Delicious.
Q. Which literary character would you say you most identify with? And why?
A. I was raised to be curious, to question reality, and to think deeply about everything. Isn’t that so Ramona Quimby?
Q. What are you reading right now?
A. I’m primarily a nonfiction reader these days, mostly because I have an insatiable desire to learn about the world in a deep and meaningful way. I am currently reading iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood — and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Jean Twenge … long
Q. Being able to flip the pages in a book is a bit of a lost art, it seems. What are your thoughts on books going digital?
A. I adore ebooks and read them almost exclusively. I have bad eyes, so I appreciate being able to enlarge the text without having to wear reading glasses. I also like having so many free library books available in such a light package. You know, you might be surprised how many people don’t know you can check out ebooks through your library.
Q. Fort Worth right now is in the middle of an initiative to have 100 percent of third-graders reading at grade level by 2025. What do you think needs to be done to achieve this goal?
A. I support the work of Read Fort Worth 100 percent … [Libraries] are the place for recreational reading. In order for kids to become lifelong readers, they need to think of reading as a fun activity. Reading in school helps them achieve proficiency, but it often isn’t fun, and only fun leads to a life of wanting to read. In the library world, we like to say that all kids are readers, but many just simply haven’t found the right book yet.
Q. What’s next for the Fort Worth Library?
A. Fort Worth is big — I’m looking into ways we can expand our services outside of the traditional library building. I’d love to be in a shopping space or mixed-use building. There is lots of evidence that shows that libraries have a halo effect on retail — people come for us and stay to shop. I know we are supportive of the economic development goals of the city.
Q. In July, the library launched a service that allows people with no access to the internet to check out wireless hotspots. Tell us about that.
A. I’m thrilled that we are rolling out a pilot project to check out wireless hotspots in four branches that are in high poverty areas so that kids and adults can have internet access at home, a benefit that I would argue is a need-to-have these days and not just a nice-to-have … They can check the hotspot out for three weeks just like a book, and up to 10 devices can connect to it at any time. If this is successful, which I am certain it’s going to be, the next step would be to expand it to other locations and also potentially to check out laptops or tablets.
Q. Being quiet in the library — is that still a thing?
A. We haven’t been quiet places in a long time … The library itself is loud, it’s boisterous, it’s a community space. I can’t tell you the last time I shushed someone.
Q. Have you ever shushed anyone?
A. Sure! Of course.
1. Kindle. Manya says she reads ebooks almost exclusively, and many ebooks can be borrowed from the Fort Worth Library via the Libby app.
2. Yoga Joes. These green army men in yoga poses stand on Manya’s desk and make for great conversation starters, she says.
3. Yoga mat. Yoga is Manya’s “go-to for feeling good.” She goes to Indigo Yoga regularly.
4. Part of Our Lives by Wayne A. Wiegand. Manya is a huge fan of this author and says the book made an impact on her career in the library.
5. “History has its eyes on you” popsocket. Manya loves the Broadway musical “Hamilton” and recently saw it at The Kennedy Center.
6. A S’well water bottle. Manya once lived in Washington, D.C., which is why her water bottle shows the D.C. subway system. She can still tell you where she got on and off.
7. Purple Molly. The City of Fort Worth’s logo, Molly, made purple using a 3-D printer.