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Meet Our Newest Friend: Shannan Cvitanovic

At the end of March, the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library appointed Shannan Cvitanovic their new executive director, after their years-long leader, Dixon Stetler, stepped down from the position. 

Since 1957, the Friends have been supporting the New Orleans Public Library’s mission to transform lives, enrich neighborhoods, and preserve history, and Cvitanovic said she’s honored to be picking up that torch. Born in New Orleans and raised in lower Plaquemines Parish, Cvitanovic has fond childhood memories from her local library, where she would visit for arts and crafts and to check out books about her current obsessions.

“I remember a librarian at the check out desk saying to me, ‘I’m always interested to see what you’re reading.’ That made a profound impression on me, that someone noticed what I liked and was encouraging me,” she said. “I want everybody who walks into the Library to feel that way – noticed, respected, and encouraged.”

Shannan Cvitanovic recently took over as executive director of the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library.
Shannan Cvitanovic recently took over as executive director of the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library.

Cvitanovic is a lifelong library user and advocate who described the institution as “an invaluable public good,” that is always free and always open to everyone.

“Not only do they provide critical services by helping people who need information assistance, but libraries invite us to enter, relax, and indulge our imaginations,” Cvitanovic said. “That Is magical to me. I felt that way as a child and I feel the same way today. I cannot think of another institution that has so profoundly shaped my life over many decades.”

Emily Painton, interim executive of the New Orleans Public Library, said those beliefs are exactly why she is excited to see Cvitanovic take over the Friends’ helm.

“We are so excited to welcome Shannan into our extended Library family. Over the years, she has continuously exhibited her passion for libraries and her dedication to ensuring our organization has the resources and support we need to serve the people of New Orleans,” Painton said. “Dixon will be sorely missed, but we cannot wait to see where Shannan takes the Friends.”

Before stepping into her new role, Cvitanovic worked with the Library through various channels, including as director of the YMCA’s adult literacy program for over a decade, which is located on the third floor of Main Library. There, she said she saw the “enormous amount of work,” that goes into running a library, as well as the wide array of services that staff provide.

Cvitanovic was also involved in two successful millage campaigns that ensured the Library would be fully funded for the next two decades. 

“Working on those campaigns showed me how many people feel as I do – that libraries are a necessity, not a luxury, and we cannot have a healthy, thriving city without a healthy library system,” she said.

The main Friends’ main goal is to help fund SUMMER FUN programs, literary festivals, teen and adult skill-building workshops, year-round events, and more. For Cvitanovic, this means working side-by-side with Library staff, which is something she’s looking forward to most.

“I think that the role of Friends is to trust the Library staff –– who are the experts at what they do –– to tell us about the programming that the public wants,” Cvitanovic said. “The staff have their ears to the ground, and I look forward to hearing their ideas about what the Friends can help support in the next year.”

Though Cvitanovic said picking a favorite Library location is an impossible task, as, “they all have their particular flavor,” she said she’ll always have a soft spot for Main.

“I spent many happy years working within those walls and learning just how much our Library staff does for the public at large,” she said.

Interested in joining the Friends? Visit their website, friendsnola.org, for more information.

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