Alumna Hailed as Humanitarian

January 19, 2005

PICTURE DESCRIPTIONAuthor. Bookworm. Technology guru. Literacy advocate. Mary Baldwin alumna. Marcy Sims ’68, director of the Virginia Beach Public Library, has many roles. Now she can add “humanitarian” – to that list. Sims was one of six Virginians to recently earn an Award of Excellence in the Humanities from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. The Charlottesville-based foundation supports public programs and recognizes accomplishments by those in the field every few years.

“My Mary Baldwin education helped me build confidence in myself and, therefore, confidence in my leadership ability,” Sims said

It took Sims a scant three years after graduation from Mary Baldwin University to find the Virginia Beach Public Library – where she settled in for 33 years of service to date. Sims admits she chose to become a librarian by process of elimination, but she committed herself to the profession from the outset.

“I was a college student at a time when it seemed like women still had limited career choices: teacher, nurse, librarian, or homemaker,” she said. “Luckily, I found that I was passionate about libraries and how they promote reading and learning.”

Sims’ undergraduate degree in English developed, or rather, “fine-tuned” her love of books and reading. She went on to earn a master’s degree in library science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s in public administration from Old Dominion University.

Sims worked in the library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Richmond Public Library before starting as a branch librarian in Virginia Beach, near where she was born in Portsmouth. She has served as the director since 1976.

PICTURE DESCRIPTIONIn Virginia Beach, Sims is credited with fierce advocacy for adult literacy in the Tidewater area and throughout the Commonwealth in addition to daily promotion of reading, education, libraries, and books. Her attention has recently shifted to preschool and family literacy in hopes of giving youngsters and families the tools to break the cycle that leads to adult illiteracy.

As board president of the Virginia Foundation Center for the Book since 1990, Sims has guided the organization through several large projects including creation of the Authors’ Room at the Library of Virginia, which houses 9,000 books by Virginia authors. The Virginia Center for the Book has also been recognized by the American Library Association as one of the top 50 programs in the country for young adults.

“I believe passionately in the mission statement of this library. A literate population and the freedom to read what is available are essential to democracy and reading is a critical life skill,” Sims said.