GRCC’s Sophia Brewer sharing her expertise, passion for learning in statewide leadership role with Michigan Library Association

Sophia Brewer standing next to a bookshelf, holding a book, smiling.

GRCC Reference and Collection Development Librarian Sophia Brewer is sharing her expertise and passion for learning and history in a new statewide leadership role.

Brewer was elected to be one of the Michigan Library Association’s three new directors-at-large, a move she said is a logical progression in a career that has been marked by a love for libraries.

“I want to serve the profession that has given me so much,” she said.

The Michigan Library Association is the state’s oldest and largest library association, serving the library profession for more than 130 years.

The organization supports more than 2,000 libraries throughout Michigan from public, academic, school and special libraries, as well as organizations that are supportive of libraries. The group advances the profession through sharing of best practices, innovative ideas and new programs and services that benefit library personnel, library patrons and the communities it serves.

Brewer added that she was intrigued by one of the MLA’s top strategic priorities: efforts around equity, diversity, accessibility and belonging.

“I want to learn more about and have an impact on these efforts,” she said. “Banning books and the efforts to suppress the history of Black, Indigenous and people of color concerns me. I am my ancestors, so that history follows me when I walk into the room and sit at the table. I am the walking story and legacy of my ancestors. I will not be banned.”

That passion is also evident in her work at and love for GRCC.

She started part-time at GRCC as an adjunct in 2007 and as a full-time librarian in 2014. She oversees a wide variety of resources, but she loves that her work puts her in regular contact with students.

“I love to help students with research, including finding scholarly material and citing sources,” she said. “The best part about my job is the ability to work with students and staff via campus-wide efforts. I teach information literacy classes and serve as a liaison for several departments, including business, communications and culinary arts. I represent the library in everything I do, but I also am able to share and learn about the people who make GRCC great.”

A native of McComb, Miss., Brewer went on to attend Jackson State University, one of the largest HBCUs in the United States, and there she majored in elementary education before going on to earn her master’s degree in Library Science from Wayne State University in Detroit.

Prior to earning her MLA seat, Brewer spent seven years as a Grand Rapids Public Library commissioner, and her decision to run for the state seat compelled GRCC professor Lauren Woolsey to run for Brewer’s vacated position.

She said it was gratifying to be a GRPL commissioner and serve and have a positive impact in the community where she lives and works.

She also has served as a board member and presenter for the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council and is a member of the Grand Rapids Civilians Appeals Board, which she joined in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd.

And she writes a regular column for the Grand Rapids Times, founded in 1957 and the oldest existing weekly publication targeted to Black communities in Grand Rapids.

“I represent the voice of an everyday person,” she said. “I use my words to draw lines and images that connect our present to our past and future. It’s important for me to keep doing this because, in my mind, the reader of my column and I are growing together. As we grow, we learn, and when we know better, we do better.”

This story was reported by Phil de Haan.

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