Sandra M. Echols ’11 M.L.S.
Accomplished Librarian is “Always Up for a Challenge”
Sandra M. Echols ’11 M.L.S. has quite a diverse array of experience and education, but what unifies her professional philosophy as a librarian and scholar is a commitment to seeing and serving whole individuals. “I want to serve as a voice for the voiceless,” she said. “We don’t realize when we don’t show up fully or see each other fully that the person next to us often has a similar story.”
Echols has been the President of the New York Black Librarians Caucus (NYBLC) since 2016, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Information Studies from the Palmer School of Library and Information Science at Long Island University (LIU). She holds a Master of Library Science (M.L.S.) from St. John’s University as well as a Master of Science (M.S.) in Fund-Raising and Grant-Making from New York University (NYU), two degrees she earned concurrently while also working full-time and a single mother with three children. Echols recalls one summer when she was enrolled in four graduate courses at the same time. “I am always up for a challenge,” she said.
She decided to pursue both master’s degrees while employed as the first full-time Youth Services Counselor and Coordinator for the Queens Library. Echols had previous experience with non-profit youth development through both the Harlem Children’s Zone, where she was College Prep Coordinator, and the Family Independence Administration, where she was Senior Project Manager. At the Queens Library, this experience informed her ability to “reach youth where they are and take them where you want them to be.” She worked at the intersection of reference and social services, connecting patrons to the community, which is now a huge part of the urban library system’s mission.
Echols then became a Case Manager for the library’s Adult Learner Program, “The Literacy Zone,” the second of four positions she would hold in the Queens Library system. Her work there and her “love for information” inspired her to become credentialed as a librarian. “I didn’t know becoming a librarian could take you so many different places, just like reading a book,” said Echols. “The faculty at St. John’s had robust curriculum vitae and experience with various sectors of librarianship. I became immersed in the field of librarianship and I apply that theoretical knowledge every day.”
Once she received her M.L.S., Echols because the Assistant Director of the Adult Literacy Program at the Queens Library and, two years later, a Community Library Manager. She missed working with adult learners, and in 2015 became Research and Evaluation Manager at the New York City Regional Adult Education Network. Her primary focus was using learning analytics to improve services to adult learners, an issue that is now her dissertation topic at LIU. In 2016, her success with analytics and data management led to a position as Assistant Dean in the Gill Library of The College of New Rochelle, where she assisted with the day-to-day management of Title III and Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grants and served as lead program administrator for the implementation of their customer relations management (CRM) software. Since 2015, Echols has also taught Research and Information Literacy and Career Development courses as an adjunct professor at ASA College.
Echols also boasts a long list of publications and service to the profession. As President of the NYBLC, she works to increase the number of librarians of color who serve in leadership roles by helping library support staff gain access to graduate education that would allow them to become librarians. She also serves as Councilor at Large for the New York Librarians Association (NYLA), and as Conference Programmer for the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA).
Echols, who received the 2017 National Institute for Literacy Scholarship Award from the Coalition of Adult Basic Education (COABE), traces her commitment to adult education back to her own experience as an adult learner. She received her B.A. in Humanities with a minor in Literatures from NYU after already gaining work experience and as a first-generation college student. “My mother, who had a third-grade education, was my first literacy student,” she said. “It helped me build compassion for and connection to adult learners, and to see them holistically.”
Always one to multi-task, Echols is starting her own business while pursuing her Ph.D. She will provide career consulting to adult learners and connect them to resources that can advance their careers. Her long record of achievements speaks to her expertise in this area.