Borough library manager wins prestigious award

Gesille Dixon (l) accepts a check for $10,000 that accompanies each 2019 Sloan Public Service Award during a presentation at the Bronx Library Center on Thursday, May 23rd from Mary McCormick, president of the Fund for the City of New York.
Photo courtesy of the Fund for the City of New York

A borough library administrator has won a prestigious prize widely regarded as ‘the Nobel Prize of city government.’

The Fund for the City of New York honored Gesille Dixon of Parkchester, who has a position with the New York Public Library where she provides leadership for 35 borough branches, with the Sloan Public Service Award.

The award, which comes with a $10,000 prize, is given to just six employees every year out of a municipal workforce consisting of over 300,000 people.

Depending on the generation, the awards are sometimes called the ‘Oscars of public service’ or the ‘Nobel prize of public service,’ said Mary McCormick, president of the Fund of the City of New York.

The honor was presented to Dixon at the Bronx Library Center on Thursday, May 23 as part of a bus tour where she and five fellow winners of the award were celebrated in a place where their work is clearly visible.

Dixon, who has lived in the borough for 18 years, said that in her role, officially titled NYPL borough director of Bronx Neighborhood Networks, she is only as good as the branch managers and staff that work with her to ensure library patrons have positive and helpful experiences.

The library manager said that after immigrating from Trinidad and Tabago when she was 13-years-old, the library in her Connecticut home town became a haven and later a source of opportunity as it provided her with summer employment throughout high school and college.

“Libraries have always been gateways, it is a gateway to foreign lands, to creativity and imagination, but it is also a gateway to a better education, to job resources, to citizenship and to a very caring community,” said Dixon.

Dixon said that libraries serve a critical role as community centers and gathering places, adding that today they are about much more than collections of books.

They are places where a patron on a job search can explore whether or not they want to pursue a new career free of charge by exploring a particular line of work, for example, or get information about assistance they may need with housing while their children participate in educational programing, she said.

She began her career in the Woodstock branch in the south Bronx and feel in love with the vibrancy of the borough, she said.

Dixon who initially pursued a career in the medical field before discovering it wasn’t for her, took a cut in salary and went back to school to become a librarian, always recalling her first visit to an American library where she was in awe of the collections of books and the wealth of available information.

Dixon, like all winners of the Sloan Public Service Awards, which are now in their 46th year, was thoroughly vetted.

After passing initial phases of investigation, each award recipient had a report commissioned about the work they do that included interviews with colleagues and subordinates before coming to selection panel of people outside of the core organization of The Fund For the City of New York, said McCormick.

“We don’t put anyone before the outside selection panel if we don’t think they would be an honor to the award,” said McCormick.

Dixon, who is a breast cancer survivor, said that she understands a branch manager who won the award several years ago nominated her.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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