In anticipation of APALA’s 35th Anniversary & Symposium celebration in June 25, 2015, APALA Web Content Sub-committee is introducing a mini-series of articles focusing on advocacy. We appreciate the significance of advocacy work, which can come in many different forms and can focus on many different aspects of library and community engagement. Many APALA members engage in advocacy as part of their work.
As APALA is an organization invested in librarians and library workers as people, we wanted to shine light on a very human aspect of advocacy work–fatigue. We had asked several APALA members to think about advocacy, activism, and the toll such work often takes. Four APALA members have consented to reflect on their experiences of advocacy, fatigue and renewal. We will be publishing their work through the rest of the 2014-2015 operational year.
In this first essay of the mini-series, I write about advocacy and activism work, and coming to terms with one’s own limitations and need for renewal. ~ Melissa I. Cardenas-Dow, APALA Web Content Sub-committee Chair, 2012-Present
Recently, I’ve come to embrace the fact that I can do intellectual work much better than physical labor. I like to think about things. I find great meaning in the work of connecting abstract concepts together. That type of work excites and energizes me.
What excites me even more is the prospect of doing intellectual work that makes a difference in people’s lives. For me, it’s not enough to think about ideas, how they often end up written or somehow represented as some tangible thing by scholars and academic experts in different fields, and how these knowledge objects must be made accessible to researchers who would need to access them for their own scholarly work.
I am well aware that I am just one among many who take seriously the charge of advocacy and activism within APALA and ALA. Many of us conduct scholarly activism, not just advocacy. Many of us immerse ourselves into scholarly, academic literature and are guided by theoretical perspectives. But, in the end, we advocate–we speak up, we write, we do–for the library worker community and the community of patrons we serve through our libraries.
As Sara Goldrick-Rab says, “It takes time, energy, emotional labor, and a thick skin. It is usually an unpaid gig.” Even within a supportive environment, surrounded by friends, allies and colleagues who think and say positive things about your activist labor, the tolls of such work on a person can be immense.
I make a conscious effort to infuse my professional work, particularly my involvement with professional library associations and groups, with my own personal strengths and social justice advocacy. I select assignments and positions that, I think, will allow me to contribute, help me build some skills that I am interested in improving, and further my personal, professional, and academic interests in equity, diversity, and inclusion in modern American society. Most of the time, finding these in most tasks aren’t very difficult to do. But, they do take a level of attentiveness that can wear on a person. Mostly because the tasks are so plentiful and vast, but my time, heart, and spirit are limited. This circumstance is an easy recipe for burnout.
How does one know one is experiencing advocacy fatigue? Here are the signs that tell me I am in great need of some down time.
The negative, defeatist voices are getting louder. They say things like, “What’s the point?” or “Do you really think you’re making a difference? Lonesome you? The system is bigger than you.” Advocacy work is the work of heart and spirit. Resilient as heart and spirit are, they are also easily depleted. Maintaining a hopeful heart, mind and spirit can become work, in and of itself. When that happens, my internal critics gain ground. I take that as my cue to re-focus, find more ways to get positivity into my daily intake.
Misanthropy starts coloring my outlook and attitude. I generally have a very strong appreciation for absurdist humor. Normally, my penchant for inspiration and joy balances this out, preventing me from tumbling down the cynic’s rabbit hole of mental despair. I believe these lenses–optimism and criticism–are important to hold in tension of each other in order to maintain an advocate’s position. For me, it’s enough to focus on which effort I’d like to get behind, rather than focusing on an outcome that is the result of taking a long-view of activist work. When this balance gets disturbed, however, I start disliking the perspectives, and the people associated with them, that I have cultivated for years.
The desire for an apathetic outlook becomes stronger. When I am so, so tired of advocacy work, I start fantasizing about letting it all go, stopping, and focusing on more immediate concerns, such as my house, my husband, my children, our pets. There are plenty of other, more capable social justice warriors out there, right?
In many ways, feeling burned out, especially these states-of-mind I had described, is a result of a confluence of modern living and of balancing domestic, professional, and other obligations, all at once. I have just pulled out some aspects of how I experience fatigue, in general, and focused on the ones that are most relevant to the advocacy work I do with ALA and APALA.
Living a meaningful life isn’t supposed to be easy. The struggle with fatigue is part of the lifestyle. How do you keep your spirits and heart positive? How do you keep your mind focused on the prize? Let us know in the comments!
Editing assistance provided by Jaena Rae Cabrera.
The Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association’s (APALA) Scholarships and Awards Committee is proud to announce Cynthia Mari Orozco as the 2015 Emerging Leaders for the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association. APALA will provide funding to support her attendance and participation in the Emerging Leaders program at the 2015 ALA Midwinter Meeting and Annual Conference.
“The Emerging Leaders Sponsorship is an amazing professional development opportunity that enables new librarians the chance to network with other professionals and develop professional leadership. Because of the generous donations from our members and sponsors supporting our scholarship programs, new talented APALA librarians like Cynthia Mari Orozco are able to receive the financial support to ensure their career dreams,” says Eileen K. Bosch, APALA President 2014-2015. We are looking forward to see Cynthia’s future contributions to APALA and the library profession!
Cynthia has vast leadership, community and volunteer experiences starting with her first library leadership role as President of LISSTEN, a student organization at San Jose State University, which connects students, professors, and library professionals. Cynthia writes that the skills she gained, “have helped me serve on library committees at my home institution, collaborate with other librarians to present at conferences, and network with my peers to build connections for future collaborative projects.”
Her most recent effort was to reach out to the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center through Twitter to partner with the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) in hosting the Smithsonian APA Center’s Asian Pacific American Wikipedia edit-a-thon. This was a simultaneous event that involved many APALA librarians throughout the country. Through these experiences, Cynthia, “discovered that leadership does not only entail creativity and innovation but having the drive and ability to carry these ideas to fruition.”
Cynthia believes that effective leadership begins with the leader. She states that a leader, “encourages and inspires innovation and creativity, not being afraid of potential failure but allowing for ample time, space, and energy to explore new ideas and reevaluate existing systems. An effective leader is also “committed to the mission of his or her institution and in the well-being and development of his or her staff, never remaining complacent in existing structures, programs, or services, and constantly looks for opportunities for improvement, collaboration, and growth.”
Cynthia has worked with a number of diversity initiatives at university campuses. At Loyola Marymount University, she partnered with the Asian Pacific Student Services to teach students about the University Archives. She also assisted with the University’s “First to Go writing series” which consists of testimonials of first-generation college students, deposited to the library’s institutional repository. She writes, “As a fourth- and sixteenth-generation Mexican American and second-generation Japanese American, my personal background has inspired my desire to work with students from diverse backgrounds.” This inspiration resulted in Cynthia’s creation of an online space called, “LISmicroaggressions” (http://lismicroaggressions.tumblr.com/) for librarians, archivists, and other information professionals to share their experiences with micro-aggressions in the profession. She concludes, “My hope is that by sharing these experiences, we can increase the dialogue regarding diversity in the profession and understand how our words and actions affect our peers.”
Cynthia holds a BA in Political Science and Sociology from the University of California, Irvine. She has an MLIS from San José State University and MA in Latin American Studies from San Diego State University.
If you are interested in helping other new librarians like Cynthia Orozco, please consider donating to our great organization this holiday season while you shop on AmazonSmile! If you are not familiar with AmazonSmile, it is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, and shopping features as Amazon.com. The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.
Most importantly, your contribution will be a perfect gift for you – an “end-of-the-season” tax write off. Consider donating to APALA today!
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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.