Diana Davidson

Top 40 Under 40 2011

Photography 3Ten/Aaron Pedersen

Age: 35

Job Title: Director of Public Library Service Branch, Municipal Affairs

Why She’s Top 40: She’s turned a personal involvement in books into a mission to increase library access and literacy for all Albertans.

Key To Success: “Maybe I’m naive or overly hopeful, but I want to be involved in making things better.”

Diana Davidson has a way with words. A winner and finalist of numerous non-fiction, poetry and fiction prizes, she believes books expanded her horizons, beginning with frequent trips to the public library as a bookworm growing up in Beaverlodge, Alta.

Now she wants to ensure all Albertans will have the same opportunity to benefit from public libraries. And, through her role as director of the public library services branch with the provincial government’s department of municipal affairs, she can help make that happen.

“My passion for literacy, books and writing is the undercurrent in everything I do,” says Davidson, who has a doctorate in literature from the University of York in England and teaches writing courses at the University of Alberta. “After a day at work, I feel I’ve made a difference, whether it’s explaining to senior management why we need more funding for libraries, or negotiating licensing that gives a small town in rural Alberta the same access to digital resources as someone in Edmonton.”

After volunteering as a board trustee and chair of the Edmonton Public Library from 2003 to 2008, Davidson realized she could help influence decisions about literacy and libraries, which appealed to her strong commitment to public service. “I volunteered because I love books; then, all of a sudden, my life became engaged in municipal and provincial politics.”

In her current position, which she’s had since spring 2010, she’s very proud of helping her branch secure government funding to put a language learning software program called Mango into every Alberta library. She has set improving library access in aboriginal communities as her next challenge, and is working to ensure that libraries stay on top of technology trends.

“I’m very excited to see how user-driven creation of content – in writing, music and art – will change the library’s function,” Davidson says. And if the stars align, tomorrow’s libraries may even stock her still-unpublished book, a novel set in the 19th century.

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