In early July 2014, APALA Web Content Sub-committee member Melissa Cardenas-Dow corresponded with APALA Executive Director Ven Basco. We spoke about APALA’s upcoming 35th Anniversary & Symposium and the current state of APALA, as an organization and as a group of diverse librarians, sharing many different things with each other. The following article is the second of a three-part mini-series highlighting APALA’s 35th Anniversary. It also provides an edited version of our conversation.
Melissa Cardenas-Dow (MICD): Please briefly tell us about yourself and your position(s) in APALA, especially your role in planning APALA’s 35th Anniversary celebration.
Ven Basco (VB): I am the current Executive Director of APALA. I was also APALA’s past president and the chair of the 30th APALA Anniversary celebration held in Washington DC in 2009. I am a steering committee member of the 35th Anniversary celebration. I co-chair the APALA literature awards committee with Dora Ho. As Executive Director of APALA, I work with the Executive Board on many organizational matters, including working with ALA on programs, conference experiences, and logistical matters. For the APALA 35th Anniversary matters, I work with Eileen Bosch, current APALA President, and the APALA Anniversary Program co-chairs, Florante Ibañez, Gary Colmenar, and Jade Alburo.
MICD: What do you think is the most important function(s) of APALA at the present time?
VB: Historically, APALA is the bigger umbrella organization that provides a home for librarians who are looking to express aspects of their ethnic and cultural heritage that may not be raised or made visible through other groups affiliated with ALA. Right now, we want to demonstrate to the larger ALA community that we exist, so I’d say the visibility of APA librarians and their contributions to our profession is one of the most important functions APALA has.
MICD: How well do you think APALA is doing, in terms of achieving its strategic plans and goals?
VB: We haven’t been getting the greater exposure and visibility that larger ethnic caucuses have been able to achieve. However, we are continuing to work on this, doing all the things we are doing, making sure that APALA and its members’ accomplishments are visible and that we share our collective and individual successes. We are heading toward achieving our goals.
MICD: At which areas do you think APALA can do better? Why do you think so?
VB: We want to celebrate and share the accomplishments of our members, not just within ALA, but also at their local libraries and within their own communities. Our individual members’ accomplishments may not be ALA related all the time, but they are achievements nonetheless. APALA’s relationship to each individual member makes it important for our organization to celebrate and recognize each achievement. I do think this is important to do because by recognizing our members and their accomplishments, we are also raising the visibility of our organization. Improving our visibility also goes hand-in-hand with growing our membership through recruitment and outreach.
Organizationally, we can do better with prioritizing our efforts. I do think that communications, recruitment, and outreach are the top priorities. Followed by fundraising and financial management. We are making efforts to address these issues, while balancing the fact that we are a 100% volunteer organization.
MICD: What do you see as APALA’s role(s) as an ALA ethnic/cultural affiliate?
VB: As an organization, APALA does provide a home for API librarians and allies. However, I do think that this is just one small aspect of our role within the librarian profession and within ALA. We do advocate for API librarians and API communities, but we also want to emphasize our visibility and value to the larger community of ALA. That’s important work and many of our members are involved in such efforts. But we don’t necessarily have to focus on work that centers on our ethnic or cultural backgrounds. We each should be able to say, “I have achieved and contributed such-and-such to advance and improve ALA and the profession. And I am an APALA member.” Making contributions to ALA and the library profession, I think, is also very important. APALA benefits greatly from such types of visibility and recognition, too.
MICD: In a previous conversation, Gary Colmenar mentioned that the diversity among API librarians is both APALA’s greatest strength and greatest challenge. What do you think about this? How does diversity among the APALA members affect its current operations, if at all?
VB: I think the challenge is really in promoting and making visible the myriad accomplishments of our members, regardless of their diverse backgrounds. From my perspective, the diversity of our membership is great and wonderful, and it doesn’t pose great problems for APALA’s operations. The continuing challenge is ensuring the visibility of the organization and its members. Many different things come into play with this, including discrimination or even the concern and fear of being discriminated against. I know many of us feel concerned about being relegated to “only Asian roles,” to use a phenomenon in entertainment and show business. Being looked at as not as competent, not as good, etc. But as far as the continuing operations of APALA, the diversity of members doesn’t pose an insurmountable great challenge.
MICD: What about in terms of specifically promoting and advocating on behalf of API library communities and patrons?
VB: In terms of promoting and advocating for API communities and patrons, I think diversity is pretty challenging. We need to find commonalities besides our cultural origins and heritages that falls under the label “Asian/Pacific American.” If we can unify and realize that our commonality rests on our understanding of knowledge and information practices, not our cultural and ethnic heritages, then we, APALA, can have a better voice at ALA.
MICD: With regards to building bridges with other ALA groups and affiliated organizations, especially those that focus on cultural and ethnic diversity, could you describe for us the collaborative projects APALA is currently engaged in?
VB: TalkStory with AILA (American Indian Librarians Association), definitely. Our participation in JCLC (Joint Conference of Librarians of Color) is definitely collaborative. In addition to these, we should continue to look for opportunities with the other cultural affiliates of ALA, other ALA roundtables and divisions, and organizations outside of the ALA circle. We should also investigate conducting collaborative projects with library organizations in other countries.
MICD: Based on your experiences in APALA, could you relate to us a story that can be illustrative of your experiences?
VB: In my state, Florida, there are very few of us. The regional aspect really affects my ability to have experiences beyond our national meetings.
MICD: How do you think the APALA 35th Anniversary & Symposium will serve to further nurture APALA’s current goals and objectives?
VB: The programs are related to the ultimate objectives of our organization. I think the Symposium can do a lot to promote APALA, raise our visibility, and strengthen our outreach efforts. Since our Symposium occurs right before ALA, we can think of the APALA 35th Anniversary & Symposium as a prequel to ALA Annual 2015.
MICD: What message do you hope attendees will get out of the APALA 35th Anniversary & Symposium?
VB: I hope attendees will see that APALA is a great collaborative partner and that we have many members who are willing and able to work with others toward common goals. At the same time, I hope attendees will learn things from the different programs that will help them become better librarians, not just better API librarians.
MICD: Any last, closing words?
VB: We are small, but we have been growing. We have our shares of troubles, but we also have our share of successes. Though we cannot be everything to everyone, we will continue to contribute to our librarian community. We welcome and encourage participation from anyone, anyone, who shares our mission and goals.
Questions written and interview conducted by Melissa I. Cardenas-Dow. Editing and writing support provided by Alyssa Jocson Porter.
by Melissa Cardenas-Dow and Molly Higgins
In preparation for our APALA 35th Anniversary & Symposium celebration, the web content subcommittee has been looking back and reaching out to APALA founding members. Previously, we featured Drs. Kharkanis, Har Nicolescu, and Collantes. We also featured Dr. Ken Yamashita, who wrote a very informative article on the history of APALA.
This article featuring an APA library leader focuses on APALA founding member, Dr. Henry C. Chang, Director of Library Services at the Braille Institute in Los Angeles, California. Below is an edited version of an email conversation we had over the summer and early fall of 2014. We discussed APALA, librarianship and Dr. Chang’s career trajectory.
Melissa Cardenas-Dow (MICD): What drew you into librarianship?
Henry C. Chang (HCC): I was pursuing my Master’s degree in demography at the University of Missouri, Columbia. I became interested in librarianship while working part time at the library on campus. After I obtained my first Master’s degree in 1966, I continued my studies at the University of Minnesota, where I attained a second Master’s degree in Library Science in 1968. Later, I was recruited to the university library faculty as Public Services Librarian. After one year in that position, I was promoted and joined the library administration as Assistant Head. I worked on my doctoral degree, which I attained in 1974, majoring in sociology with a minor in library science. The next year, in 1975, I was offered the position as Chief Librarian and Lecturer in social sciences at the University of the Virgin Islands. In January 1990, I relocated to Los Angeles and became Director of Braille Institute Library Services, the position I still hold.
MICD: Why did you get involved with the founding of APALA? How were you involved with the organization as it grew?
HCC: I was very active in the American Library Association (ALA) after I obtained my professional degree in Library Services in the 1960s. At that time, the Association of Jewish Libraries already existed, the California Librarians Black Caucus was established in 1970, and REFORMA, the national association to promote library services to Latinos, was organized in 1971. Many Asian American library colleagues felt that there was a great need to have an organization of our own. As one of the leaders at that time, I took the initiative and the responsibility to organize the Asian American Librarians Caucus (AALC) in 1975 at the ALA Conference in San Francisco, where a large Asian community existed. I was elected Chairperson and we held the first meeting to seek funding for scholarships in library/information science for Asian Americans. About 500 people attended. The caucus held its future meetings during ALA Midwinter and the ALA Annual Conference and I continued to be involved through the 1980s. I received a certificate of appreciation from ALA as Councilor in recognition of my distinguished services in 1984.
MICD: What was the significance of APALA when it was founded? How has it changed over the past 35 years?
HCC: The purpose of the APALA predecessor organization, AALC, when it was founded was to provide a forum for discussion of problems and concerns of Asian Pacific American librarians and to support their aspirations. There was also a need to promote and improve library services to Asian American communities. One objective was to increase communication between Asian American librarians and other librarians and to gain recognition for Asian Pacific American librarians’ contributions to the profession. Membership in the AALC was opened to librarians of Asian ancestry including Asian Indian, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese employed in U.S. libraries. The caucus expanded and eventually became APALA in 1980. The APALA founders shared concerns about the invisibility of Asian American librarians. APALA affiliated with ALA in 1982 and became the primary professional association for Asian Pacific American librarians.
MICD: How do you define your Asian American identity and how does it influence your work as a librarian?
HCC: In the early 1970s, I responded to a need to establish a professional organization for all Asian American librarians. As a founder of the organization, I was the spokesperson for the Caucus to promote our programs and services. In those days, there was a large proportion of Asian Americans working in the library field, mostly in technical services. Many were not active and had no interest in participating in ALA or other professional activities. Some Asian American librarians had to overcome language and communication difficulties with mainstream communities. Relatively few Asian American librarians held management positions and we had, to work extra hard to prove ourselves. We, Asian American librarians, had to constantly challenge ourselves to work smarter and harder to be able to move up in our careers.
MICD: Do you have any advice for young Asian American librarians?
HCC: I tell them be proud to be an Asian American librarian and part of the society at large in a country of opportunity where they can fulfill the American Dream. As Asian American librarians we are the best qualified to reach out to our respective minority groups and extend library service and change lives. We can build special collections of interest to some Asians and also lead other groups to full participation in American society. I encourage them to get into management and make a significant contribution to the library community.
Molly Higgins wrote and clarified the questions for this interview. Alyssa Jocson provided editing assistance. Many thanks!
APALA members: do you have suggestions for APA library leaders whom we can feature on our website? If so, please send an email to melissa.cardenasdow(at)gmail.com with the subject: “APA Library Leaders.” I appreciate your suggestions! ~Melissa
The Minnesota Institute for Early Career Librarians (MIECL) is an intensive, one-week professional development program intended for librarians from underrepresented groups in the first three years of their professional careers. Several APALA members attended the 2014 Institute last July and offered to share some of their takeaways in a series of web articles. In this first of three installments, Tarida Anantachai (Syracuse University), Simon Lee (UCLA), and Cynthia Mari Orozco (CSU Long Beach) reflect on MIECL’s cohort environment and discussions on supportive relationships.
One of MIECL’s learning objectives is to “[develop] a community of peers with whom participants share common experiences and on whom they can rely over time and distance for support and encouragement.” What do you think is the greatest value of the MIECL community?
Tarida Anantachai (TA): Actually, the community was the greatest value of MIECL itself. I am incredibly honored to have connected with such an amazing group of diverse librarians, which has also led to some exciting subsequent collaborations (like this article!). Establishing this community for openly sharing our thoughts—especially important for those who may have felt isolated or cautious in their new professional environments—and knowing that we and previous MIECL graduates are out there supporting other early career, diverse librarians has been both comforting and empowering. I know that we will be a constant presence for each other throughout our careers, and could not be more grateful for it.
As an early career librarian of color, it can be difficult finding others who share your perspective and experiences.
Simon Lee (SL): The greatest value of the Institute is connecting with a pool of diverse librarians with whom I can identify with. We are shaping the foundation of our early professional careers and have aspirations to lead and excel. The relationship I built with my cohort will stay with me throughout my professional career. This article mini-series is evidence that the connection does not end at the conclusion of the Institute. I reconnected with numerous members of my cohort through the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), we are well connected via social media, and soon I’ll be working with one employed by our library. Only time will tell what other merits will come from being a part of the MIECL.
Cynthia Mari Orozco (CMO): As an early career librarian of color, it can be difficult finding others who share your perspective and experiences. The Institute brought together a strong, passionate cohort of librarians with whom I was able to openly share my thoughts, discuss frustrations and ambiguity, and celebrate milestones and triumphs. Through the Institute, I gained an incredible support system that I have been able to turn to and continue that open dialogue. I have already been collaborating with some of my cohort members on future projects, including proposals for conference presentations and an LIS Microaggressions zine series.
What were the various types of support systems that were discussed at the Institute? How have you applied the lessons you’ve learned about them since then?
TA: Mentoring, unlike other support systems such as helping or coaching relationships, is more focused on broader issues related to the overall growth and development of the mentee. While guidance and feedback is also involved, it is more in terms of providing inspiration and creating a safe space that encourages self-exploration and discovery. Positive mentoring relationships are ongoing conversations of mutual trust that ultimately bolster the mentee’s own aspirations and interests.
Learning about supportive relationships at MIECL has helped me to better appreciate the distinct roles that our varied support systems play in our lives, and which ones may be more appropriate to seek out or apply in particular situations. For instance, I now approach my mentoring relationships as opportunities to reflectively explore ideas on a more holistic level, rather than to simply gather advice or assistance with a given task as in a coaching conversation. Amongst my colleagues and even my friends I have already recognized instances when a particular support behavior (e.g. offering feedback vs. listening vs. empowering someone to action) is better suited for the given need, and feel it has helped me to better address our relationship expectations, goals, and many ways we can support each other.
SL: Coaching/Feedback (CF): The goal of CF is to draw out the best one could be in their position. This challenging support system takes time to master. CF addresses problematic behaviors in a timely, specific, and focused manner. If, hypothetically, a sudden and unexpected outburst arises, find a reasonable time to discuss the issue, be specific about the outburst, and focus on that. The impact of that outburst may have led to subsequent problems which affects an entire team. Feedback requires that you truly desire to help a person improve and that one be thoughtful, diplomatic, and mindful. Most importantly, it requires that the subject is a willing and careful listener so it could be acted upon. Having an agreed action plan to gauge improvement is a possibility for effective coaching and feedback.
The Institute taught me the distinctions between these three supportive systems. My previous mentorships were short-lived because they were informal and unstructured. I have since continued regular, structured monthly meetings with my mentor which allow me to go back to readings, conversations, and focus on learning goals. The helping relationship enabled me to exercise better listening, which empower others to verbalize solutions they can claim as their own. CF should occur over the course of the year as opposed to the performance evaluation period. Time is needed for noticeable improvements.
Positive mentoring relationships are ongoing conversations of mutual trust that ultimately bolster the mentee’s own aspirations and interests.
CMO: Lastly, there’s the helping relationship, in which a person has a specific problem and the helper listens and provides guidance and perspective. An effective helper simply guides, rather than drives, the conversation while allowing the person to essentially discover and evaluate solutions on their own. As a mentor to sophomore students on academic probation, I meet regularly with my mentees and have incorporated this approach when we sit down and try to find solutions for academic success.
The lessons I have learned through the Institute have also guided me in my role as the mentor, helper, or coach when working with my colleagues or with mentees who are in library school. Learning when it is appropriate to offer guidance, when to give advice or opinions, or when it is best to sit back quietly and let others find their own paths is most certainly an art form—something that I look forward to working on over the course of my career and as I continue to connect with others in the field.
by Jeremiah Paschke-Wood
With the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association nearing its 35th Anniversary celebration, we continue remembering and honoring some of those instrumental in the founding of the organization. One such person is Lourdes Collantes.
Lourdes Collantes was born in a province 30 miles from Manila in the Philippines, one of seven children (McCook, 1998). The daughter of a professor at the University of the Philippines and a rice mill owner, she received her B.A. from the University of the Philippines. After helping with a cataloging project at UP as an undergrad, she decided to pursue a Master’s in Library Science, enrolling at Rutgers University in 1958.
At Rutgers, Collantes received her Master’s of Library Science degree and would also eventually pick up a M.Ed. and Ph.D. (in 1992) due to the scarcity of library jobs at the time. She served as an intern with East Orange (N.J.) Public Library for 14 months before returning to the Philippines to serve as Librarian-in-charge of the Social Sciences Division and Humanities and Reference at the University of the Philippines from 1961-67.
Named Assistant Professor in 1966, she also served as the Head of Acquisitions from 1968-71. In 1972, she became Assistant Librarian at Rutgers University’s Mathematical Sciences Library and then, one year later, became Associate Librarian at State University of New York at Old Westbury. She held this position for 24 years, before being named Acting Director in 1997.
At the 1980 American Library Association conference in New York, Collantes, Suzine Har Nicolescu, Sharad Karkhanis, Conchita Pineda, Henry Chang, Betty Tsai, and Tamiye Trejo Meehan met and decided to found the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (Yamashita, 2000). Collantes would serve as president of APALA in 1983-84. But her involvement with the organization did not end there; she also chaired the Awards, Nominations and Constitutions and Bylaws Committees. Within the American Library Association, Collantes served on the ALA Awards Committee from 1984-88 and was the chair of the Pay Equity Committee from 1991-93 and chair of David Clift Scholarship Committee in 1986.
Among additional accolades, Collantes was named Delegate to the People to People Library and Information Science Delegation to the People’s Republic of China in 1985, received Professional Development Librarian Research Awards from United University Professions in 1985 and 1987 and received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Librarianship in 1994.
She was also well-known in the library field for publications including “Degree of Agreement in Naming Objects and Concepts for Information Retrieval” in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and edited Asian/Pacific American Librarians: A Cross Cultural Perspective.
Lourdes Collantes could not be reached for this article.
McCook, K. (1998). “Lourdes Collantes.” Women of Color in Librarianship: An Oral History. Chicago, American Library Association
Yamashita, K. (2000). “Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association—A history of APALA and its founders.” Library Trends, 49(1), 88-109. Last retrieved June 22, 2014, from: http://www.apalaweb.org/wpsandbox/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/apalahistory.pdf
Editing assistance provided by Alyssa Jocson.
by Ann Matsushima Chu
The Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) Scholarship and Awards Committee announced the following Travel Grant recipient during the ALA Annual Conference 2014 in Las Vegas:
Gerie Ventura has been a library paraprofessional for almost twenty years and currently is employed as the Circulation Operations Lead at Highline Community College in Des Moines, Washington. While brand new to APALA, Ventura was first introduced to the group and the travel grant through librarian colleague Karen Fernandez. Ventura currently attends Emporia State University on the Portland, Oregon campus with a concentration in Leadership and Administration, and plans to graduate in 2015. Ventura expresses excitement in learning the plans for APALA’s upcoming conference in San Francisco, as well as being open to new opportunities for her involvement and leadership as she finishes up with library school.
When asked about her experiences at ALA, Ventura states that she was “on Cloud 9” during most of the 2014 ALA Conference, knowing how overwhelming the conference can be yet fueled by inspiring and empowering conversations with many APALA librarians and other librarians of color. The panel discussions of first-time directors and librarians of color, as well as an OCLC Symposium on the “future of libraries” were most thought provoking and challenging for Ventura.
Ventura makes note on how hearing current APALA President Eileen Bosch share stories about the challenges of assuming leadership roles in libraries has allowed her to feel more confident that meeting her educational goal of completing library school is possible. She is comforted by the fact that there is a network of librarians in and outside of APALA who are happy to lend an ear or offer advice. This open flow of librarians sharing their stories or assistance in the future allows Ventura to feel more comfortable and connected to the community of librarians.
Since Ventura is currently in library school, her primary interests lie in hearing the practical application process of information theory in her classes. While taking a Collection Development class, she enjoyed listening to the librarians from around the nation in the collection management interest group, as they discussed managing multiple digital products and how floating collections affect access to library materials for inner-city/urban public library customers.
Her vision for librarianship stems from the many librarians who have encouraged her throughout her entire educational career. “Keeping the karma going” is Ventura’s motto to putting a friendly, accessible face to librarianship for APA library users and, especially, non-users. Ventura thinks there are many within the vast APA community who are not yet aware of the amazing library services that are available to and for them, at no cost. She excitedly envisions continuing “talking libraries” with her friends and family to inform them of how libraries can enrich their lives, both virtually and face-to-face, and of how to make deeper connections between APA community groups and many libraries that want to serve them.
If you’ve heard about “the big library conference” and have always wanted to attend, Ventura encourages you to apply for the 2015 APALA Travel Grant. She encourages future participants to “make the most out of it by finding workshops and sessions of interest to you and meet as many APALA members and librarians as you can. They will inspire and encourage you!”
Many thanks to Gerie Ventura! Best wishes as you continue your librarianship journey!
Editing assistance provided by Raymond Wang.