Annie Pho is currently the Resident Librarian in the Research Services and Resources department at University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her Master’s in Library Science at Indiana University’s School of Library and Information Science at the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis, IN.
Annie recently joined APALA a few months ago!
I joined because I was inspired by the tight-knit community that APALA seems to have. I was the only Asian American student in my library school program, and I wish I had joined APALA when I was still in school. I also attended JCLC (Joint Conference of Librarians of Color) and got to meet so many APALA members there. I just joined the Web Committee and look forward to working with them in the upcoming year.
When we asked about her about her cultural heritage and background, she shared a lesson she’s learned from living around the country:
I’m a first generation Vietnamese-American. My family moved around a bit when I was growing up, which gave me this sense of always trying to live in new places. I spent most of my childhood in Orlando, FL, which was a pretty diverse place. Then we moved to the Bay Area in CA where I have lived most of my life, although now I live in Chicago. All this moving taught me to be open to new experiences and to give everything a chance. I would say that having this approach to life has helped me get to where I am in my career.
Annie and librarianship seem to be a perfect fit:
The fundamental aspect of librarianship that satisfies me is the ability to help people. Ultimately, this is all I ever wanted out of a career. I just wanted to do something with my life that would have a positive impact on society, and I think helping people connect to information is very important. Some of my professional interests lie in library instruction and technology. I’m interested to see how technology can help students develop research skills, especially in this increasingly digital age. I’m also interested in learning more about critical pedagogy and want to try to incorporate that into my own library instruction sessions. Overall, I’m a really curious person, and I love learning new things– which is why I love being a librarian.
Annie stays active on her bike and in social media and is a self-professed cat lady. She says:
In my spare time I like hanging out with my two kitties and riding my bike. After participating in Cycling For Libraries in 2013, I have become more interested in international librarianship. Find me on Twitter as @catladylib or on my blog (http://catladylibrarian.wordpress.com/).
Welcome to the APALA community, Annie!
Article written by Alyssa Jocson, with editing assistance by Jeremiah Paschke-Wood.
This article featuring an Asian/Pacific American library leader highlights Dr. Kenneth A. Yamashita, former APALA president and author of the article “Asian Pacific American Librarians Association: A History of APALA and Its Founders.” The article is available in the About section of APALA’s website. Most recently, Dr. Yamashita served on the Steering Committee of the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color 2012 as the Treasurer.
Between late August and mid-September 2013, I corresponded with Dr. Yamashita about library leadership. This article is an edited version of our asynchronous conversation, focusing on the questions I sent that emphasized his library experiences and career.
Melissa Cardenas-Dow (MICD): Could you please give us some detail about yourself and briefly describe your career path to date?
Kenneth A. Yamashita (KAY): I was born Akira Yamashita on Sept. 11, 1945 in Topaz, Utah, a WWII Japanese American incarceration/concentration camp. I spent my youth in Berkeley, California, Bergenfield, New Jersey, and Montclair, New Jersey. I graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in English Literature, Indiana University with a MA in Fine Arts History, Rutgers University with the MLS, and Simmons College GSLIS with the DA in Library Management. I worked at several different libraries across the country, including the Montclair (NJ) Free Public Library, Decatur (IL) Public Library, and the Chicago Public Library. I also worked for Computer Library Systems Inc. (CLSI), a company that developed an early integrated library system, in Newtonville, MA and Anaheim, CA. I spent some time at the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners in Boston and the New England Library Board in Augusta, Maine while I was studying for the Simmons College DA program. Since 1981, I worked at the Stockton-San Joaquin County (CA) Public Library (S-SJCPL). I retired as the City Librarian of S-SJCPL in January 2010.
MICD: When we talk about diversity, we often discuss the differences that are immediately noticeable—ethnicity, gender, age, culture, etc. Can you describe the ways in which you see yourself as a diverse professional?
KAY: I’m a third generation (Sansei) Japanese American, gay man. I was born in an American incarceration/concentration camp in Utah. Both my parents were second generation (Nisei), born in California as U.S. citizens. I was raised in the East Coast, in New Jersey. My library career is predominantly in public libraries set in rural, suburban and urban environments. I also have marketing and staff training experience in an early ILS company and have state library agency/interstate cooperative experience.
MICD: Can you describe an instance when your diversity played a beneficial role in your library work?
KAY: At the Chicago Public Library, I helped the Assistant Commissioner and the Commissioner with interviews of Librarian I candidates for the branches and the Commissioner’s office staff. I had the ability to personalize the formal interview process to ease the candidates’ nervousness and to encourage them to talk about themselves. I was particularly effective with candidates of color who had no prior interviewing experience. This skill was greatly appreciated by the Assistant Commissioner and the Commissioner, as well as the candidates.
MICD: Please describe how you progressed from your first professional position to the next step. What positive or negative role did your diversity play in attaining the next position?
KAY: My first professional position was as a reference librarian at the Montclair (NJ) Free Public Library (MFPL). After the MFPL director Arthur Curley called the dean of the Rutgers University library school and got me enrolled, provided a trustees fellowship and a part-time job as Librarian Trainee, I decided to continue working at the MFPL after graduating with the MLS. Curley’s philosophy, “an excellent librarian working anywhere is a benefit to libraries everywhere,” encouraged me to apply for an Extension Services Supervisor position at the Decatur (IL) Public Library (DPL). The DPL director at that time, Robert Dumas, had actively recruited and hired new, younger professionals to develop and mentor. I presume that my Asian American ethnicity may have played a positive role in my hiring (I was the only librarian of color out of the 5 librarians hired) but my age, beginner’s level experience, and readiness for mentoring and developing were more compelling reasons for it.
MICD: In your experience, have you found it significantly more challenging to move higher up the leadership ladder? How did you make the move from middle management to upper management?
KAY: When the Deputy Director of Library Services at the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library moved on to a County Librarian position in another county, the Director of Library Services decided not to conduct a national search for her successor and chose to appoint me to the position instead. I had been a Library Division Manager for 16 ½ years, had worked with 4 directors, and had applied for the DD position once before. The fourth director, a younger, progressive African American woman who had been hired “to bring the S-SJCPL into the 21st Century,” provided the opportunity for advancement.
MICD: How does your diversity influence your leadership style?
KAY: Inclusiveness and consensus-based decision making are very important to me. These qualities might be characterized as my Asian American (emphasis on “American”) leadership style.
MICD: As someone who currently occupies a leadership position, what would you say are the attributes you look for in future leaders?
KAY: Demonstrated leadership skills and/or potential. Future leaders should have a passion for their work and out-of-work-time activities. I also look for the ability to work well with subordinates, colleagues, and administrators and the ability to see the whole picture as well as the details. Demonstrated ability to make connections and work effectively with library constituents and their communities, especially constituents/communities of color, are other attributes I look for in future leaders. Effective oral and written communication skills, a healthy sense of humor, technological competence (if not expertise), membership and participation in professional associations, and commitment to continuing education for themselves and their co-workers are other significant hallmarks.
MICD: What skills or talents do you recommend that diverse professionals might develop as they seek new leadership positions?
KAY: The sorts of skills, attitudes, and activities that I mentioned earlier.
MICD: What advice would you give young professionals, especially those from diverse backgrounds, who are interested in attaining their first leadership positions?
KAY: Do your homework before you apply and interview for a position at a library. In addition to perusing annual reports, financial statements, five-year plans, etc. and learning about the library’s community, talk to librarians on staff, make a site visit to see how well (or not) you might “fit-in” and assess the potential for advancement in the organization. Ask colleagues about their knowledge of the pros and cons of working in the library in question. Volunteer for committee assignments and request the chair responsibility in your new job. Join professional associations, including but not limited to your own ethnic librarian/library association, attend their library conferences, on your own time and dime if necessary, to develop your leadership skills by chairing committees, running for elected offices, serving on executive boards, ALA Council, etc. Find a mentor to guide and support you and your career.
MICD: What advice would you give mid-career professionals, who may already have some supervisory responsibilities or are in middle management and are interested in moving into higher management?
KAY: Demonstrate exemplary work in your current position that can be reflected and acknowledged in your performance evaluations. Quickly bring any “Needs Improvement” areas up to standards, even exceeding them. Let your supervisor or director know that you are seeking advancement and ask for his/her advice on the most effective way to achieve your goals. Talk to mentors and outside colleagues who can offer more personalized/authentic advice and counsel. Be willing to relocate yourself and your family if advancement opportunities are not locally available or obtainable.
MICD: What message would you give to library administrators regarding the value of diverse leaders and how they might grow or urge those leaders within their organizations?
KAY: Capitalize on the diverse view/talking points and strategies to fulfill the Library’s Mission and achieve the common goals that diverse staff bring to the table, when they are allowed to sit at the table. The diverse leaders should be encouraged and developed because they are typically connected to (an) un/underrepresented segment(s) of the constituent population. They can bring trust, credibility, and a sense of inclusiveness to the library as a public service provider. As such, they are valuable human assets for the library who deserve all the development and support that administrators can provide.
MICD: What final thoughts would you like to express to APALA members?
KAY: I entered the profession in the early 1970s, when many seasoned librarians were retiring and the recruitment and retention of new librarians was a national priority. At the same time, the African American civil rights and women’s equality movements’ activists were clamoring for changes in society, libraries, ALA, and the profession. I had the good fortune of working for Arthur Curley, Betty Turock, Ella Yates, Robert Dumas, and David Reich—all activist library directors and leaders—in the first 10 years of my professional career, of being taught outreach and social responsibilities by Robert Wedgeworth at Rutgers University library school, and of working with Eric and Ilse Moon, E. J. Josey, Jana Varlejs, Helen Wright, and Jean Coleman at ALA. All of these library leaders felt that it was an honor and privilege to mentor and develop future leaders, particularly but not exclusively, future leaders of color. My finest and final mentor was Dr. Ching-chih Chen, who generously provided personal, as well as professional advice, coaching and support through the Simmons College DA program and my Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library career.
For more information about Dr. Kenneth A. Yamashita, please visit his profile at Simmons College.
The day I took my U.S. naturalization oath five years ago, I was disappointed by the judge’s demand that everyone should speak English. It was like being asked to willingly leave an important part of your identity behind. When I was younger, I may have agreed with him, but the idea of losing a language that shaped who I am was devastating. I still remember that moment from time to time when I think about language and identity.
A few weeks ago, a friend posted on Facebook an interactive map from the Washington Post titled “Mapping where English is not the language at home.” The map illustrates the growing number of non-English language households in the United States. The 2011 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, also the source of the Washington Post map, reported that more than 60 million of the U.S. population spoke a language other than English at home. This information reminds me of my parents’ house, where we communicate in at least three different languages in a single conversation. Instead of speaking completely in English, my dad and I sometimes talk in Tandaganon, a language that my mother does not really speak. At the same time, my mom and I will converse in Bisayan and English. My siblings and I talk in English since they do not know either languages. All the language switching is confusing to other people but it all makes sense to us. It is normal. Basically, we are a normal immigrant family household.
In this essay, I write about my own language journey through some of my life stories. I ask, “Who am I?” in the Tandaganon, Tagalog, Bisayan, and English languages.
Sin-o sa ako? When I was five or six years old, I moved from Davao City to the town of Tandag, Surigao del Sur with my lolo and lola (grandfather and grandmother). Tandag is on the Pacific side (Eastern) of the second largest island of the Philippines, Mindanao (blue pin on map: http://goo.gl/maps/XYNXp). Coming from Davao City (green pin on map), also in the island of Mindanao, where Bisayan and Tagalog are widely spoken, I had to learn Tandaganon to be able to completely understand the people around me. In a way, I was learning a new language at an early age. Tandaganon has a lot of similarities to Bisayan. “Good” is maayo in Bisayan and madayaw in Tandaganon. Some words are unique to the area. “Tomorrow” is ugma in Bisayan and silom in Tandaganon. In case you are wondering, in Tagalog “good” is mabuti and “tomorrow” is bukas. I consider Tandag as my hometown. So, I have a great affinity for Tandaganon. I definitely do not want to lose it.
Sino ba ako? Many people in the United States assume that the Philippines has only one language, Tagalog (or Filipino). This is completely far from reality. There are at least 181 languages and dialects spoken in the Philippines. With that said, I think Tagalog and Bisayan are the two dominant languages in the country. With all the languages I learned and studied, Tagalog is by far the most difficult for me to learn and speak. Hindi ako magaling mag Tagalog (I am not good in Tagalog). I still remember the time I received my report card that had my Tagalog class as the lowest grade. Ugh! I guess I am a little disconnected from Tagalog. Once in awhile, I do wonder why I find Tagalog difficult. Maybe it is because I grew up in southern Philippines where majority of the people speaks Bisayan. It could also be an act of pride not to speak Tagalog, a language mainly spoken in the northern Philippines. Historically, there is much political friction between the northern and the southern Philippines. I do remember that some television stations in Cebu City, a southern city, played the Bisayan version of the Philippine national anthem. It is definitely an interesting thought that I would like to explore and understand, especially the dynamics of language, politics, and identity in the Philippines.
Kinsa man ko? I studied high school in Cebu City (red pin on map: http://goo.gl/maps/XYNXp), a few islands away from Tandag, north of Mindanao. Cebu City is the second major city and oldest city in the Philippines, after Manila. Bisayan is the language of Cebu. As a student at the University of San Carlos Boys’ School (Go, Carolinians!), all of my subjects were taught in English, except for the Filipino (Tagalog) language class. I remember the school implemented a policy that all students should speak only in English or Tagalog while on school grounds with the intention that we should all be “professionals.” Bisayan had no place in school. Yes, my beloved native language was not and, possibly, still not considered professional or acceptable in school. Well, wa na nadugay (that did not last long). All of us students did not follow that rule, or if we did, we made fun of it. We pretty much continued with our daily conversations in Bisayan. I am sure the school administration gave up enforcement at some point.
Who am I? English is a required language course in Philippine schools. In fact, it is now an official language of the Philippines, together with Tagalog or Filipino. Since the very first day of school, I have been doing my A-B-C’s but that did not make me a perfect English speaker and writer. When I immigrated to the United States after high school, the move brought me new challenges with the English language. Even though I learned English early in my life, I was so self-conscious about how I sounded, how I phrased words, that I ended up timid most of the times. I was definitely afraid of sounding stupid. I do not say this often but I still am very self-conscious about my writing, even with simply updating my Facebook status. I, or someone else, always find mistakes with grammar, spelling, etc. Yes, I know English but, of a completely different sort. I remember learning English in the Philippines, where long, complicated sentences are considered better. But then, when I was in college here in the United States and taking a rhetoric/composition course, I was taught to be succinct and concise. I still struggle.
One of the many questions that I often get asked as an immigrant is, “What is your native language?” I always find this question difficult to answer. I think I find it difficult because I don’t have just one. Both Bisayan and Tandaganon are very significant to my childhood. These two languages shaped the way I think about my hometown, my culture, and my identity. If I have to choose just one, I will probably choose Bisayan as that is the language I learned first, but only because it was the first. However, Tandaganon, a language I learned from an early age, is much closer to how I define myself as a Filipino. Does your native language have to be the one you learned first? Or could it be the one that you associate with the most?
When I look back at all the moments when language made a significant impact on my life, I smile at the good times and cringe at the bad ones. Mostly I smile at all the memories language has given me thus far, good or bad. Questions about language and identity are common to have and experience. All of us, whether monolingual or multilingual, have journeys in many languages.
Until next time, y’all! Now that I live in the southern state of Georgia, I expect to learn a new variation of the American English language. I am looking forward to it.
Paolo P. Gujilde
Coordinator of Collection Development/Assistant Professor
Zach S. Henderson Library
Georgia Southern University
Commission on Filipinos Overseas
Ethnologue – Philippines
US Census – Language Use
SIL Philippines; Partners in Language Development
Frans Albarillo joined APALA in 2008 and currently serves as a member of the Finance and Fundraising Committee. He was recently recognized by ACRL as their Member of the Week for April 1, 2013. Frans earned his MLIS from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in 2009, where he enjoyed working with supportive faculty and students from various parts of Asia and Oceania. He currently works as the Reference Librarian for Business and Sociology at Brooklyn College, City University of New York.
Frans identifies himself as an immigrant Filipino and describes his background:
I became a naturalized citizen in my 20s. My parents are professors, so I grew up moving around every four years until they received tenure in Illinois. Hawai’i was the longest place I’ve ever lived (six years) besides the Philippines (twelve years). For my undergraduate and first M.A. I studied linguistics and French. I am also a heritage speaker of Tagalog and eventually studied it formally at UH Manoa. I’ve also traveled, lived, and worked for several years in Europe, mostly in France, Morocco, and the French West Indies. French and Francophone culture plays a deep influence in my life since I’ve spent almost four years studying, working, and traveling in these areas.
After moving from Hawai’i to Flatbush, Brooklyn, which is a Caribbean neighborhood with Dominicans, Trinidadians, Jamaicans, and Haitians, I feel like I’ve come full circle, back to the smells, tastes, and sounds of the Caribbean. I like it here very much. I self-identify in Brooklyn as coming from Hawai’i because the island identity seems the most salient in my neighborhood. When I meet local Hawaiians from Hawai’i (one of our librarians is from Maui) she tends to think of me as local Hawaii-Filipino. To most Asians I am a Filipino-American or Pinoy, and most Filipinos call me Francis, not Frans. There’s also a definite island vibe in Flatbush: street merchants selling all sorts of wares and food on the sidewalk, jerk chicken barbecue places, Rastafarian vegetarian restaurants, West Indian roti shops, Haitian jazz restaurants, informal van services (Dollar Vans) that are quite popular in the Caribbean, and drum circles in the park. It’s a great place to live if you enjoy Caribbean culture.
His personal background lends to his work with immigrant students.
I really value working with immigrant students and immigrant experiences. That’s why I love working in New York City. My university serves many foreign-born and first-generation college students. I also enjoy the diversity that the city offers, not to mention the diversity of food choices!
Frans recently participated in ALA’s Emerging Leaders program in the 2012-2013 year. Of his ALA-EL experience, he writes:
I really enjoyed Kathryn Deiss’s Emerging Leader workshop at ALA this year, and I thought it was immensely useful to hear from the other Emerging Leaders about their projects, experiences, and outcomes. It was great to be able to have these conversations about the association, and I am excited to continue the discussion with the Emerging Leaders Interest Group, chaired by Angelica G. Fortin. I’d like to thank APALA for sponsoring my application to the program, and my teammates, Susie Judd and Susan Hoang, for being such great collaborators.
We are very happy to get to know you better, Frans!
My earliest memory of something being both Asian and Latino and cool was when Kogi BBQ hit the L.A. food scene with its Korean taco truck in 2008. For those unfamiliar with Kogi, their short rib taco is where it’s at—“two crisply griddled homemade corn tortillas, double-caramelized Korean barbecue, salsa roja, cilantro-onion-lime relish and a Napa Romaine slaw tossed in a chili-soy vinaigrette.” It’s fantastic and pretty much genius. Growing up Japanese-Mexican in California, the seemingly natural interplay between Asian and Latin American flavors is something that my family and I have known for years.
A couple of years before Kogi blew up the L.A. food truck scene, I moved to Irvine as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed freshman entering the University of California, Irvine as a biology major, mostly because that seemed like the thing to do. The reality was that I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I switched majors four times, trying to find something I loved, something I felt passionate about. I finally found what I was looking for when I took a class on United States intervention in Latin America, which was basically a history course on all the stuff conveniently unmentioned in high school history courses. This was also the breakthrough moment of my life when I discovered how little I knew about the world around me. At this point, I decided that I needed to experience the world firsthand and learn about world history and culture for myself. In 2005, I packed my bags for a summer archaeology field program in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile.
Back to food. One of the first meals I had when I arrived in the city of Iquique in Chile was at a chifa restaurant in the city’s small Chinatown. Chifa, originally from Peru, refers to Chinese cooking that incorporates locally available ingredients. That summer, I had my fill of arroz chaufa (fried rice), tallarín saltado (chow mein), sopa wantan (wonton soup), and, quite possibly my favorite, aeropuerto (airport)—a glorious mix of chow mein and fried rice. Heaven. Aside from good food, my first chifa experience forced me to realize how naive I had been regarding the various Asian diasporas around the world. In school I had learned about Japanese and Chinese immigration to the United States, but it had never occurred to me that there were other immigration options aside from the US. Up to this point in my life, I didn’t even realize that it might be normal to have both distinctly Asian and Latin American roots.
My trip to Chile also marked the end of my four-year undergraduate experience, and I still didn’t have a clue about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. At this point, my dad advised that I pursue a graduate degree in something that I loved and that I would find my path along the way. Thus, I enrolled in a Masters program in Latin American Studies at San Diego State University, which allowed me to travel to other countries within Latin America, including Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and Panama. This decision also enabled me to continue to explore established Asian communities in Latin America and experience how their food has adapted local ingredients and, in cases like Peru, become recognized as a an integral part of the national cuisine.
Food is a powerful and subtle way in which communities share their culture, history, and identity with others, essentially a catalyst for storytelling. Food connects us. Food helped me find communities and experiences similar to mine and sparked my curiosity into further exploring my own cultural identity in a global context. I feel incredibly blessed to live in Southern California and experience various forms of shared, borrowed, and blended food cultures, like Kogi’s Korean street tacos, reflective of our immigrant culture. As an academic librarian, I constantly refer students to tangible resources within the library and electronic sources to facilitate their research. At the same time, I couldn’t emphasize firsthand, real life experiences enough. Food is a good place to start.
Cynthia Mari Orozco
Loyola Marymount University
Los Angeles, California
Nikkei food stories in English, Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese
Digital exhibition: “Gourmet Intersections: Asian-Latino Food Crossings,” Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center & Smithsonian Latino Center
Nikkei identity, history, and experiences
Eating Identities: Reading Food in Asian American Literature – Wenying Xu
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food – Jennifer 8. Lee
Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States – Andrew Coe
Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America – Linda Furiya
Rice as Self: Japanese Identities Through Time – Emiko Oknuki-Tierney
Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen – Donia Bijan
Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America – Gustavo Arellano
Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food
Food and Culture: A Reader – Carole Counihan, Penny Van Esterik
The Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) Scholarship and Awards Committee announced the following Travel Grant and Scholarship Award recipients during the ALA Annual Conference 2013 in Chicago:
Travel Grant Recipient: Linda Nguyễn
I’m a 2013 MLIS graduate from St. Catherine University and 2011 Spectrum Scholar of the American Library Association. I currently work as a Communications Associate at the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and am a Zine Collection intern at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College Library. My professional interests include transformative social justice, cultural production & preservation, and multiliteracies.
Scholarship Award Recipient: Christina Nhek
My name is Christina Nhek and I am pursuing a Master’s of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I have a bachelor’s degree in Art History from California State University, Long Beach. My areas of interest are in archives and public librarianship. Perhaps one of the most important influences that have shaped the person I am today is my upbringing in a bicultural environment. As a child of refugee parents, access to resources were limited, mainly due to the lack of knowledge about available information. Growing up, my parents have always placed a great emphasis on education. Although our economical situation was limited, my parents believed that through hard work and sacrifice, I would be able to achieve success in anything I chose to do. One of the reasons why I want to pursue a degree in the Library Science field is to promote the importance of Khmer cultural awareness within the community. I want to help people find resources to develop their personal and educational growth. I believe in helping to enrich and educate the younger generations by providing good library resources to help their future endeavors.