Representation and access, today and tomorrow

December 15, 2022

Maxine Brown-Davis smiles for a portrait with her arms crossed. Maxine wears a dark navy sport jacket and a blue blouse. Maxine wears glasses, red lipstick and has shoulder-length straight brown hair.Carolina’s libraries helped Maxine Brown-Davis ’74 find herself. She wants all Tar Heels to have that same advantage.

Maxine Brown-Davis ‘74 has loved libraries since her childhood in Wilmington, North Carolina. “I started out with a home library of three books when I was a toddler and it grew from there,” she says. “Libraries have always been important to me because they are launching pads for imagination, information, and experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”

She brings that affinity for libraries to her role on the Friends of the Library Board of Directors at Carolina. Anyone who donates to the University Libraries becomes a Friend of the Library; its board helps raise awareness and funds. Brown-Davis, who joined the board in 2020, says she is proud to share information about the University Libraries with others.

“Our libraries are important for people on campus and beyond,” she says. “We need to support them so they can stay state of the art, not just for North Carolina, but for the world, since we are a global research library.”

While earning her degree in industrial relations with a minor in American business, Brown-Davis enjoyed exploring Carolina’s archives, rare books and reference books. “The library allowed me to indulge my fantasies around historical architecture and learn more about the history of various countries as I met people on campus who were not from North Carolina,” she says. “Finding materials that are rare and precious has always fascinated me.”

Brown-Davis flourished in her career with The Procter & Gamble Company before retiring in 2009 as chief diversity officer and vice president, global diversity and organization performance. “I have had success in my life through access that Carolina made possible,” she says. “As I think about current students, particularly students of color, I want them to have options to explore and become who they’re meant to be while at Carolina.”

Brown-Davis especially appreciates the University Libraries’ commitment to diversity and inclusion. “I am pleased that the archives, personal histories and focus on Southern history are trying to provide more consistent documentation and accessibility about what our communities are built on,” she says. The expertise of the University Libraries’ staff, along with the collections, “help make sure that our diverse communities are seen and represented fully.”

Brown-Davis fears that some people discount libraries because the Internet provides access to so much information. “Technology has a multiplier effect on data and information generation, but it also cheapens events, ideas and creativity for many,” she says. “The Library needs to be ready to use, help create, and provide access to information with context and a holistic vantage point for anyone now and in the future.”

She donates to the University Libraries to help keep them technically proficient, user-friendly and abundant in their content. “Sustaining the connections, meanings and actions of humans is critical for continuing to innovate with care for the collective futures of humans and the planet,” says Brown-Davis. “Giving helps the system keep up with the speed of output, now and in the future.”