As part of our ongoing series of blog posts highlighting our awesome staff throughout the Free Library of Philadelphia, today we take some time to speak with Dawn Silva, who serves as the municipal guard at the Nicetown-Tioga Library on North Broad Street.
What is your role with the Free Library of Philadelphia?
I am a Municipal Guard, which includes both security and janitorial responsibilities. Not only do I look out for the safety of the building and handle issues that come up in the building, I’m also working closely with the Branch Managers and doing everything from cleaning the bathroom to going up on the roof and checking the ducts throughout the seasons. Shoveling snow in the winter, changing lightbulbs, mopping, and wiping tables. It’s a lot more than people realize. And if a patron needs to know where certain collections are, I can help them with that, too!
What do you wish more people knew about the library where you work?
I wish they knew that Nicetown – both the Library and the community – are not as bad as people think. Our community can sometimes have a bad reputation, but I grew up here and lived here until my 11th grade year. It has been a good place to be. There is a lot for the community to do here, a lot going on. There are a lot of people here with musical talents, which motivated us to start an Open Mic event. I want people to know that this neighborhood is maybe not what people think it is, but that said, I would love it if the community would get more involved with the activities and what’s going on at the Free Library.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?
Honestly, to see people smile and to hear that they truly appreciate what we do. Sometimes I do go above and beyond the security aspect, and I don’t have a problem sitting down and talking with someone to try to help them in whatever way they need, whether it be to help them find books or to fill out documents. We have a lot of people come through here who aren’t computer- or tech-savvy, so even something like helping them make copies on the copy machine is a big deal to them.
What are you currently reading/watching?
I’m more of a music person. I like to listen to gospel music, and every now and then I like some smooth R&B. It can put you in a mellow mood amidst the craziness of the day.
Where’s your favorite place to read in Philly?
Here at work. I enjoy quiet time in the library.
On the night of this summer's active shooter situation in the Nicetown neighborhood, just blocks away from the Nicetown-Tioga Library, it was Dawn who had the idea to offer law enforcement and displaced neighbors shelter in the Library building until the situation resolved, remaining on scene until after 1:00 a.m.
Dawn says, For me, it was part of my job. This is why I do what I do. I have 23 years of experience in security and law enforcement. I thought about what if that were me, or what if it were my family stuck outside with no place to go. I would think and hope that someone would do the same for me. I would hope they would open their doors to me.
Do you have a favorite librarian or other Free Library staff member at your neighborhood library you think we should shine a spotlight on? Let us know in the comments!