Women's History Month 2023 - Melissa Kelly

Hello!  My name is Melissa Kelly and I’m honored to be our city’s Library Director.  I started working for Lake Oswego Public Library as a manager in 2015, and was promoted to Library Director in 2018.  My career in libraries began more than 20 years ago, shelving and processing books.  Since that time, I’ve earned progressively responsible leadership positions in libraries, as well as my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Sciences in 2012. 

I feel very fortunate to have received the opportunities I’ve had, and I am grateful to many people in my life for inspiring me to “be anything I wanted to be” and encouraging me to take on leadership roles in my younger years.  My mother, grandmothers and great-grandmother, who were all brilliant and hardworking women in the medical field, were among the first people in my life to illustrate that women can do it all – have successful careers, provide for their families financially, and care for their families in traditional roles. From a young age I felt supported to reach for the stars, and also felt the expectation to challenge myself and to utilize my skills and abilities to serve others and to make the world a better place.

My love of helping others is what first led me to consider library services as a career, and to take on leadership positions throughout my personal and professional life. Library work quickly became a calling once I understood the library’s values, mission and greater purpose beyond getting the next mystery book into my hands. I still feel motivated every day to enhance the library’s work to provide equitable access to information, technology and educational opportunities; inspire curiosity, discovery and life-long learning; facilitate community connection and belonging; and simply to serve our community’s needs. 

One of my biggest influences is Deborah Dancik, a now retired University Librarian who made a deep impression on me early in my career. Deborah clearly modeled how to lead a highly successful, innovative and customer-centered library organization.  Furthermore, she was straightforward with me about the challenges she faced as a woman in a leadership role, both professionally and personally.  Looking back, those one-on-one mentoring conversations really motivated me to grow in the profession, apply for a Master’s program, and see myself as a future library leader.

When I think of all the incredible women who joined the workforce before me and paved the path for me and so many other women, I couldn’t be more grateful for their courage, hard work and resilience.  To have grown up in a time where I really did feel I could “be anything I wanted to be” is a testament to how far their efforts have moved the needle; but it is also a stark reminder that we still have much work ahead of us to ensure that women, people of color, and other historically marginalized groups receive equal opportunities and treatment, in America and beyond. Let’s keep working to build a better world for everyone!


Photo: Enjoying a fall day in Leavenworth.