Long Beach Public Library Foundation

Women Making History: Erica Lansdown

Last week we visited Burnett Neighborhood Library to meet one of the Long Beach Public Library’s finest librarians, Erica Lansdown. This April marks Erica’s ten year anniversary with the Long Beach Public Library, and she was gracious enough to give us a glimpse of her work, regaling us with stories from her decade of work at the branch. Over the years, she has gotten to know the patrons well, walking with them from childhood through adolescence. Through the dynamic work of the Family Learning Center and other vibrant programs for young and old, Burnett has become a second home for children from the neighborhood and their families. “We know every child’s name,” Erica says, taking that friendship and familiarity for granted as a natural part of working faithfully in one community.

Knowing her patrons and being known by them is an essential part of offering quality library services to the Burnett community. “People are attracted to the library because they know us, and we’re a constant in their lives.” The Burnett neighborhood is a particular demographic, and Erica is intentional about bringing in programs that work uniquely for them. Last year, for example, they piloted a free lunch program during the summer months. Local schools provide free lunches for students, but only during the school year, leaving many families struggling during the summer. Burnett’s free lunch program responded to that need. At the same time, the library participated in the Summer Reading Program, which addresses the “summer slide”—the slide backward in literacy that students experience during the months away from regular schooling. Since the Summer Reading Program coincided with Burnett’s free lunch program, many children participated in the literacy activities who wouldn’t otherwise have known about it. They were introduced to the exciting possibilities of reading because the library addressed the immediate local need for nutrition. This is why knowing her community, being flexible, building on what works, and listening to her community members is so important to Erica.

Working with a good team is no less important. “My staff is unbelievable,” Erica says. “They are all-in. They go above and beyond. At the end of the day, we’ve helped people.” This week, the Long Beach Public Library profiled one of Burnett’s Learning Guides, Ana, on social media. Ana shared, “The children at the Family Learning Center have taught me that inspiration (and career choices) only need a little push to become a reality. It is an honor to work in a place where people come to grow and define who they want to be.” This is exactly what the Family Learning Center is for—and Burnett is setting the standard for what that looks like.

We’re privileged to be able to work with Erica Lansdown’s remarkable team. This summer we’ve invited her and a special Burnett patron to be our guests at the upcoming Grape Expectations fundraising gala on June 11. Together they’ll share what the library means to them, and how it has shaped their lives. Reserve your seats now to hear their stories.