My name is Charlotte Roh and I matriculate from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign in July 2013.
I am currently an Association of Research Libraries Career Enhancement Program (ARL CEP) Fellow at the University of Arizona, Tucson. I am investigating collaborative opportunities for the University of Arizona Press and Library. It is similar to the work I did last semester with Illinois Business Consulting, and I really enjoy it because I get to put my academic publishing experience with Taylor & Francis and Oxford University Press to work in a library setting. I am currently interviewing leaders in scholarly communications and library publishing, which is just amazing.
I joined APALA in January 2012, right when I first started library school, on the advice of Jina Park (also an APALA member and scholarship recipient). I am so glad that I did, because it was through fellow members such as Charlene Hsu Gross and Michelle Baildon that I learned about opportunities like the Spectrum Scholar Program and the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (JCLC). I was also a little isolated in the Midwest, so I really enjoyed all the listserv emails from members around the country. It made me feel so connected and encouraged! I haven’t been a member that long, but APALA has already been a community for me and made an impact on my library career. I am glad to give back as the layout editor for the APALA newsletter.
I am Korean American, and was born and raised in Southern California, in an area that has a dense population of Korean Americans. So I grew up very privileged in terms of identity, very sheltered. Moving to New York in my 20s and then Illinois for library school were both difficult transitions for me. Half of New York is from somewhere else, so there is a constant clash of cultures. However, in Illinois that clash is more subtle. For example, the University of Illinois has an undergraduate population that is 19% Asian American, but there were only two Asian Americans in my cohort at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS). Fortunately I arrived at a time when the program was actively pursuing inclusion, so I was able to participate in founding the GSLIS Students of Color student group and co-chair the Inclusions and Exclusions Reading Group.
My three career priorities are education, research, and making a holistic impact on a community. Ideally these priorities are interrelated and can really happen in any kind of librarianship, which is something I love about the profession. In my library work, I have found real satisfaction building relationships in the course of solving a research problem or participating in a teaching/learning moment. I want to continue to be an advocate for diversity and inclusion, and hope to make a positive impact in librarianship as a field.
I am so grateful for the APALA community. You have really made a difference in my life, thank you!
Charlotte’s photo credit goes to Molly Magee.
Heawon Paick is a lifetime member of APALA. Those of us who are recent members would benefit greatly from getting to know such a distinguished member of our association.
Heawon has been an APALA member since 1998 (or 1999). She served as APALA president in 2004-2005. Since then, she has been part of APALA’s Scholarship Awards Committee, as both member and chair, and the Mentoring Committee as a mentor. Heawon currently serves as the chair of the APALA Publicity Committee.
Since 2004, Heawon has been the branch manager of John Muir Branch, then of Junipero Serra Branch Library of the Los Angeles Public Library, a public library system in Southern California that is 72-branches large. Heawon’s branch, Junipero Serra, is in South Central Los Angeles, which is only a short distance south of downtown Los Angeles.
Of her MLIS education, Heawon writes:
I studied at Maryville College for one and a half years then was going to go back to Korea, but decided against it. Then I went to University of Tennessee, Knoxville for my MLIS degree.
When asked about the satisfaction she derives from her professional position as a librarian, Heawon asserts getting great satisfaction in guiding and supporting her professional and paraprofessional staff to excellence. It is little wonder that Heawon states mentoring as among her greatest professional interests.
I want to see future potential leaders succeed in their career path… push them and guide them into that direction.
Someday, Heawon would like to work as the director of a library system, in which she can make a greater difference in the lives of library patrons and staff members.
Heawon is an avid reader and movie viewer, especially of British mysteries. She has an extensive personal collection of novels and DVDs. Though Heawon enjoys company over a nice meal or afternoon tea, she admits to also enjoying quiet time at home. Driving long distances is one of the things she avoids when she can. However, the prospect of being with valued friends and colleagues makes such effort worthwhile to her.
Heawon is definitely among the most approachable, interesting and engaging members of APALA. Be sure to say hello when you see her in library conferences, meetings, and social gatherings.
The month of May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. I will start off with that. What I want to say is that I follow the creed of financial expert and television personality, Ms. Suze Orman: “People first, then money, and then things.” I live by that order and almost always execute it in anyway I can. I don’t know if that’s normal. People don’t usually give up their time for others to an extreme, or do they? I volunteer in homeless and soup kitchen shelters because I want to. I help my friends or anyone in need of my “brain” or “time” because I want to. When people need my support, I am willing to sacrifice or “invest” my time on their behalf.
It’s kind of infectious, you see. I do my best to empower people around me because that’s what I seem to be good at. I love inspiring and motivating people to do their best because I believe in them, I see that they can do their best, and they deserve to be recognized for that. They, in turn, do the same for others.
However, this is ironic because I also see that I am unable to empower or inspire myself. I am constantly discontented and largely dissatisfied with myself. I see, all too clearly, how my life turned out differently from my own vision, which was largely borrowed from my parents. It seems that I have set an almost impossibly and invisibly high bamboo ceiling of expectations that no one can see or break, even myself. I don’t know, maybe it’s how I was raised: a defense or survival mechanism?
The drive to succeed and be “overly” or “super” ambitious is quite a common “gene” in Asians and Asian Americans. It is not a totally exaggerated stereotype in popular culture. There’s some truth to it. We were natured and nurtured to be workaholics of perfectionism, or at least in the eyes of our parents.
Like most Asian immigrant parents raising Asian American children, my parents expected my “academic and behavioral perfectionism” as forms of “normalcy” or “normality” or “normativity.” It is normal to get 100s in calculus exams, write perfect essays on literary epistemology of Victorian novels, and to greet and pay respects to your grandparents, even after the derision and irrelevant criticism you receive from them. On the contrary, it is not normal to refute your parents’ wishes, not normal to not go to Ivy League schools, not normal to not go to law or medical school, not normal to not be perfect.
Anything less than the ideal perfection is an insult to your family history and reputation. It questions your identity, the very essence of who we are. I learned to cope with that the best I could. The ever-present voices in my mind say: “You are not good enough. You will never be good enough. Now get back to work. Don’t waste any more time.” Those voices belonged to my parents, but I have now “embraced” them as my own. Maybe I like playing librarian because helping people allows me to escape from my own personal misery, self-loathing, and defeatist attitude?
From time to time, I think I did something right with my life at one point, though I did not fulfill my parents’ expectations. I didn’t go to Ivy League schools. I am not a doctor, lawyer, or investment banker. I am not making six figures now or having children at the moment. Those factors are not important to me, but somehow I feel I am missing something here. Maybe I feel like a “loser” because I’ve disrespected my parents and that makes me lack something–self-dignity, perhaps?
Is it normal to feel lost or strayed from your parents’ idealization of your life or am I simply living a normal life beyond the confines of my parents’ expectations? I don’t know and I don’t think I really want to know.
Amy Chua’s work, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, sparked a lot of anger and debate over the years. The infamous Tiger Mom. Yes, my parents were indeed Tiger Parents. I don’t need to say more about that.
If I have kids in the future, I’d drive them insane, too. I am not here to put the blame on my parents. They are who they are. They probably went through a similar hell with their parents, too, for all I know. I don’t pry, but I do theorize: is there a perpetual cycle of parental condescension from one generation to the next? Maybe or maybe not. It also doesn’t help that I think like an American, but embrace my Chinese cultural roots. I am an amphibian. I can switch my mind from Chinese to American to Chinese again, but I do not share the same mindset with my parents.
This reflective essay is not supposed to heal or relieve myself or anyone else’s emotional burdens from their childhood roots. It is to illustrate that we may or may not share similar life experiences. Our parallel memories and experiences define who we are and our relationships to our parents and to each other.
If this somehow made you question or at least made you concur with what I had written, then I’ve said what I needed to say. I’ve “contexualized” my “normal life” experience and perspective to best fit the reader’s needs and understandings of life, or at least the life that I have. It is and isn’t normal, depending on when you ask me.
So far, life as a librarian is quite a “normal” life because I like the work. I get to help people (anyone, really) in an extraordinarily (non-social, work-like) way: I empower and encourage them to read, research, and think differently about things beyond their own horizon.
Raymond (Ray) Pun is a writer, librarian, and thinker in New York. He has written essays for The Huffington Post, Colleges and Research Libraries News, World History Bulletin, Business and Finance Bulletin, and more.
Asian American Biography edited by Helen Zia and Susan B. Gall
Asian American Psychology: The Science of Lives in Context edited by Gordon C. Nagayama Hall and Sumie Okazaki.
Asian American Youth: Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity edited by Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
The Asian American Movement by William Wei
Asian-American Pacific Heritage Month: History and Resources at The NYPL by Raymond Pun
Name: Alyssa Mendoza Jocson
Hometown: Fremont, CA–but I currently call Seattle my home!
Education: I am a full-time MLIS student at University of Washington’s iSchool where I am focusing on reference services and community programs. Before coming to the UW, I graduated from Seattle University with a BA in English/Creative Writing (with a second major in Spanish) and spent two years as a Literacy*AmeriCorps member teaching ESL and GED students at Seattle Central Community College (SCCC).
Current job: My time as a Literacy*AmeriCorps member at SCCC has led me to two part-time positions in other departments. First, I became a Fiscal Assistant for Workforce, which has given me valuable skills in budget management. And second, I was hired as a Reference Assistant at the SCCC Library, where I get to spend whole shifts at the reference desk helping students with their research assignments and computer skills.
Ideal job: I graduate in June! As I start my job search, I’m looking for a librarian position in a community college or public library where I can serve diverse populations.
APALA: I’ve been an APALA member since spring 2012 and soon volunteered to be on the Newsletter Committee and its Web Content Sub-Committee. When I first started my MLIS program in which I’m one of the only Asian Americans, I struggled with finding a sense of belonging within my future profession as a librarian–joining APALA helped me find community and grow professionally. I appreciate this group of people so much!
Other extracurriculars: To supplement my MLIS curriculum, I joined and became a core organizer of iEracism, a student group designed as a safe space to discuss issues of race/ethnicity and social justice. It is also important to me to to make time to volunteer. I’m currently volunteering at the Wing Luke Museum’s Gov. Gary Locke Library; I completed a guide for Asian/Pacific American genealogy resources and have started working on a “wish list” for the library’s collection. Also, this quarter I have a Directed Fieldwork at Seattle Public Library’s Ballard branch. My learning objectives include reference services, collection development, and one-on-one technology instruction. Ballard is one of the system’s busiest branches, and I am learning a lot!
Currently reading: America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration by Meg Keene.
Professional Portfolio: http://alyssajocsonmlis.weebly.com/
It’s a Mad World.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “normal” as conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern. It seems that this definition of “normal” could easily be applied to librarianship in many different ways. We instruct, conduct reference interviews, create library policies, catalog items, create metadata standards, gather circulation stats, and develop collection assessment plans. For most of us, we feel like this maybe our normal, because we may answer the same reference questions, teach the same workshops, and take several iterations to complete a project until our world of information is normalized or until a new set of standards, policies, and plans emerges that requires implementation. As a result, our profession may appear to be normal or even seem neutral to people outside of our profession.
In “The Myth of the Neutral Professional,” Jensen (2005) states, “A claim to neutrality means simply that one isn’t taking a position on that distribution of power and its consequences, which is a passive acceptance of the existing distribution” (p. 30). Does this “myth of the neutral professional” apply to the field of librarianship? Unfortunately, I think so. We have accepted the norm with respect to library employment. In the blog Hiring Librarians, it has been noted that months to year-long job searches are common (Weak, 2012). It is not unheard of for recent LIS graduates to take paraprofessional positions, continue internships, volunteer, or work other jobs in different fields (Vincent, 2013). Traditional librarians will have to contend with the advent of digital libraries and possibly the full automation of technical services. I think it will be the norm that coding and technical skills will be part of the job description for librarians. INALJ (I Need a Library Job) blog advocates “walking the line between computer science and library science will afford you more opportunities, and better your chances of landing a position” (House, 2013). Again, I believe we have accepted this norm of library employment and job duties. Do new librarians and recent LIS graduates have a place in today’s world of librarianship?
In hiring practices, most entry-level reference library job posts require a combination of library experience and technical skills. A recent ACRL article published in November 2012, written by Detmering and Sproles, compiled a literature review on job advertisement analysis. Results show entry level positions were mostly in academic libraries. In the article, the authors cite Reser and Schuneman’s study of job ads from 1988. Reser and Schuneman found only 20 percent of positions were classified as entry level and there was a trend for librarians to acquire more specializations and to hire from outside the library field. Also, librarians needed to have practical experience and tech skills. More recently, about 49% of job ads stated project planning and implementation, 26.6% included supervision and managerial duties, and 54.7% required technologically focused responsibilities (Detmering and Sproles, 2012). These findings illustrate entry level job ads put an emphasis on tech skills and practical experience. As one job applicant said, “you can’t get a library position because you don’t have experience and you can’t get experience unless you have a librarian position” (Detmering and Sproles, 2012, p. 543).
My normal has echoed the very same thing, a circuitous, hopeful journey to being gainfully employed at an academic library. It has been over two years since UNC-Chapel Hill conferred my MSLS. I have submitted countless applications, attended over 20 library interviews, which most notably included a UC Santa Barbara Library Fellowship interview via Skype, a University of Maryland Data Research Librarian Fellow phone interview, and a University of Southern California GIS Fellow Skype interview. I have yet to find full-time library employment. Since graduating from library school, I have been underemployed as a temporary library assistant, worked in private industry, and volunteered in different libraries.
In October 2010, I accepted a temporary library assistant position at University of Texas at Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology and the position ended three months afterward. So, I decided to continue my journey to find full-time library employment in January 2011. During my employment search, I received several phone interviews. After several months, I received a rejection letter that stated, “we were greatly impressed with your background and qualifications, and we enjoyed talking with you to discuss the position. It was not at all easy to make a decision. Given the impressive strength of your resume and your accomplishments, we think it is very likely that you will be offered a challenging position elsewhere in the very near future.” The near future could not come soon enough.
In July 2011, I moved in with my grandmother in Los Angeles, California to save on food and rent. I continued my job search and settled for employment outside of librarianship. I accepted a data analyst position at LA Yellow Cab and started full-time employment. I began to hit the ground running with quickly learning new taxi cab terminology, taking on projects, and acquiring new technical skills. After six months, I decided to leave my position because I was not fulfilled and did not feel it was in alignment with my career interests. So, I started my library job search again and I felt I was not making any progress.
At the end of May 2012, I moved to Santa Barbara to take a break from my job search. It was a much needed break and I felt rejuvenated. I began to volunteer as a computer coach at Santa Barbara Public Library in August 2012. I was very fortunate to be part of a progressive volunteer program and acquired much needed practical customer service and instructional experience. Due to financial constraints, I moved back in with my grandmother in November 2012. Currently, I volunteer at East Los Angeles College Library, Pacifica Radio Archives, and work as a part-time tutor. I am very grateful for the continual support and practical training that I have received from my supervisors. Both volunteer opportunities have proven to be invaluable library experiences, which I hope will lead to full-time employment at an academic library.
I want to urge APALA members, library professionals, and hiring managers to not buy into the “myth of the neutral professional” and to defend our profession. As library schools continue to turn out new library graduates into an already saturated job market, I want to pose some questions. Do library schools need to curtail student admission? How can library schools better prepare librarians to enter the job market? What qualifications do new graduates really need to become employed? Do the job descriptions for an entry level academic library position realistically meet the skills and qualifications of new library graduates? There are post-MLS programs or library fellowships to further develop new librarians. Do we have enough of them? How successful are these programs? I believe these are important issues that we currently need to confront as a profession. I hope APALA members will seriously consider them as future topics of discussion, both verbal and written.
I also want to encourage my fellow job seekers to continue on their arduous journey to become professional librarians. l leave you with a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, from his article “Returning Home” reprinted in Your True Home (2011). It has provided me with much inspiration: “Your true home is the here and now. It is not limited by time, space, nationality or race. Your true home is not an abstract idea; it is something you can touch and live in every moment. With mindfulness and concentration, the energies of the Buddha, you can find your true home in the full relaxation of your mind and body in the present moment” (p. 1).
Graduate of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
School of Information and Library Science, 2010
Chu, M. (2009). Ageism in academic librarianship. Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship, 10(2). Retrieved March 19, 2013, from http://southernlibrarianship.icaap.org/content/v10n02/chu_m01.html
Detmering, R., & Sproles, C. (2012). Forget the desk job: Current roles and responsibilities in entry-level reference job advertisements. College & Research Libraries.
House, N. (2013, Mar.18). Skills in need: Why coding and technical skills can benefit our job hunt. INALJ. Retrieved from http://inalj.com/?p=12916
Jensen, R. (2005). The myth of the neutral professional. Progressive Librarian, 24, 28-34.
Nhat Hanh, Thich. (2011). Your true home: The everyday wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh. Boston: Shambala Publications.
Shaffer, C. (2011). Best practices for hiring academic librarians with faculty status and rank. The Southeastern Librarian, 59(3). Retrieved March 19, 2013, from http://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1403&context=seln
Vincent, A. (2013, Mar. 6). Re: Making it work: Surviving as a librarian employed in another field [Web log comment]. In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Retrieved March 19, 2013, from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2013/making-it-work/#comment-36092
Weak, E. (2012, Sept. 14). Further questions: How long did it take to get your first library job? Hiring Librarians. Retrieved from http://hiringlibrarians.com/2012/09/14/further-questions-how-long-did-it-take-to-get-your-first-library-job/.