I met Ann Arbor District Library (AADL)’s Sherlonya Turner on my visit to Michigan earlier this year. Sherlonya manages youth and adult services and collections for the library. This involves leading desk service staff, directing children’s programming, and contributing to client-facing operations across the board.
As a writer for AADL’s arts blog Pulp, Sherlonya reports on film screenings, book launches, festivals, exhibitions, and cultural happenings of all kinds. Whether she’s covering visits by Hillary Clinton or Roxane Gay, a meditative movie on Native American experiences in Michigan, or her own participation in a street art festival, Sherlonya’s words provoke reflection, self-examination, and a questioning of our own assumptions alongside an account of the event in question. (I’m particularly fond of her piece on a successful Guinness World Record attempt to amass the most women dressed as Rosie the Riveter).
When she’s not making magic happen within the walls of AADL or stoking the curiosity of her readers online, Sherlonya has an unusual side project – making cakes, ice cream sundaes, and other sweet treats to represent US presidents and other senior figures in the history of American political life. Waffles, cookies, scoops, and sponges become the gateway to a thoughtful interrogation of power and personality over 200 years of the American experiment.
Sherlonya joined me earlier this month to discuss topics including her journey into librarianship, leadership and play in library settings, community blogging, and, of course, the Head of State Cakes.
“What was your origin story? How did you get to the place you are today, professionally?”
I thought I was going to be an engineer. I went to a college of engineering but then drifted into the literature, arts, and sciences department.
The university had to get in touch: “Yo, you are a junior and you don’t have a major — do something about it!”