APALA member Rebecca Martin brings us the fourth essay on our advocacy fatigue mini-series. Advocacy is a significant part of our continuing development in the field of librarianship, a helping profession. It follows that self-care and renewal is also a significant part of our professional growth. However, finding renewal by stepping away temporarily isn’t always easy or feasible. Rebecca’s reflective piece raises some questions, and solutions, concerning such situations.
In anticipation of APALA’s 35th Anniversary & Symposium, we take a closer look at the very human aspect of advocacy work—fatigue.
~ Melissa I. Cardenas-Dow, APALA Web Content Sub-committee Chair, 2012-Present
For those of us engaged in social justice work that is intimately tied to our own identities, taking a break to avoid advocacy fatigue isn’t always easy — or at times even possible.
My own experience working at Community Change, Inc. tells me that anti-racism work follows us home: it can fuel our dinner table conversations; it can disrupt our sleep; and it can wear us down. Anti-racism work is an ongoing process that continually deals with oppression on personal, interpersonal, cultural and institutional levels. It is not the type of work that has easy “wins.” It has daily, sometimes hourly, roadblocks. And for those of us who identify or are perceived as individuals of color, we do not have the privilege of easily taking a break from feeling, facing and experiencing racism.
In light of this reality, taking a break might mean stepping back to gain new perspective. Maybe it means taking stock of what experiences brought us to this work in the first place, and which books, writers, and organizations initially influenced us to take action. Perhaps it means reflection on the future as a means of revitalization.
My own approach is to imagine what an anti-racist society looks like and how we can work toward that goal collectively. I try to imagine how I want to contribute to that future: what role do I want to play? What skills and tools do I need to fulfill that role? Over the years, as my interests, skills and relationships have evolved, so has that vision.
As I’ve advanced in my experience as an anti-racist activist, I’ve undertaken continuing education opportunities just as I’ve done in my career as an academic librarian. In both cases, clarifying goals, acquiring new skills and learning about new tools has revitalized my approach and my interest in moving forward. The same approach can apply to any advocacy, activist or social justice work.
Some of the personal/professional/disciplinary goals I am working on during my current phase of fatigue include:
Fatigued or not, I always seek guidance and inspiration from my peers, colleagues and community members. I keep an eye on the What’s Your Normal series from APALA and seek new avenues for influencing diversity in academic libraries. I have also participated in local discussions about critical librarianship and what it means to be a “whole-self” librarian.
I think if we can view fatigue as part of our cycle of renewal, we can emerge revitalized and better poised to serve ourselves and our communities.
I’ll end by asking you to share what approaches to renewal you use in the comments below, and to consider the following quote from fellow librarian Audre Lorde from 1982:
“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives… Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone. We are not perfect, but we are stronger and wiser than the sum of our errors.”
Rebecca Martin is an academic law librarian at Boston University and a volunteer librarian at the Yvonne Pappenheim Library on Racism at Community Change, Inc. She is interested in the role of anti-racism education in LIS curricula and on the Internet and the role of law libraries in access to justice and information initiatives.
Editing assistance provided by Jaena Rae Cabrera and Melissa Cardenas-Dow.
In February 2015, APALA Web Content Sub-committee member Melissa Cardenas-Dow corresponded with current APALA President Eileen K. Bosch. We spoke about APALA’s upcoming 35th Anniversary & Symposium, the current state of APALA, and the aspirations of APALA leaders and members for the organization. The following article is the third of a three-part mini-series highlighting APALA’s 35th Anniversary. It also provides an edited version of our conversation.
Early bird registration for APALA 35th Anniversary & Symposium is currently underway until April 3, 2015.
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. How long have you been a part of APALA?
Eileen K. Bosch (EKB): I am the current President of APALA, Chair of the APALA 35th Fundraising Committee and a member of the Steering Committee for the APALA 35th Anniversary & Symposium. I have also served APALA as Vice President (2013-2014), Executive Board Member-at-Large (2010-2012), Chair of the Finance & Fundraising Committee (2011-2014), Public Relations Committee (2011), Literary Award Adult Fiction Committee (2011), Mentoring Committee (2010/11), JCLC/APALA Fundraising (2011-12), and APALA representative for the Spectrum Leadership Institute (2011-2012). I am also responsible for overseeing and coordinating all APALA activities, including dividing direct responsibility among the Executive Director, Vice President, and all Executive Board officers, as well as acting as the spokesperson for APALA within and outside ALA. Since APALA is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, I have also been overseeing the overall planning and coordination of all of APALA’s programs and events throughout the APALA 35th Anniversary & Symposium and 2015 ALA Annual Conference. As such, I have been working closely with APALA 35th Co-Chairs, Jade Alburo, Gary Colmenar, and Florante Ibanez, as well as Ven Basco, Executive Director, Janet Clarke, Vice-President, and Dora Ho, Treasurer.
MICD: Let’s think about the future of APALA. What do you think APALA aspires to accomplish in the future, both in the short-term and long-term?
EKB: I think that one of APALA’s aspirations is to increase our visibility and recognition within the ALA community, specifically when it comes to issues related to API communities and librarians. To this end, we have been working in cultivating leaders from within APALA who value and practice coalition-building with ALA and the other ethnic caucuses to benefit the API community at large.
MICD: What are some of the efforts we are currently performing, so APALA can achieve these future aspirations?
EKB: We have been prioritizing our work and focusing on addressing some of the goals delineated on the APALA’s Visionary Framework for the Future: APALA’s Strategic Plan. Many of these goals needed to be placed on the fast track to help our association move forward. For example, we have been targeting the completion of an electronic policies and procedures handbook to be distributed to incoming officers and committee chairs at the annual conference. This handbook will not only facilitate the transition process between previous and new leadership, but it would also allow opportunities for aspiring and seasoned leaders to experience a variety of job assignments, projects and development processes. As a small association, we need to focus our efforts on growing and developing leadership to build a network intent on practicing and realizing our core values and vision.
MICD: In the previous article, Ven Basco, APALA’s current Executive Director talked in great length about the need for APALA and its members to be much more visible. What do you think about this? How does more outreach, more communication, more visibility play a role in the future aspirations and empowerment of APALA and its members?
EKB: I think that true leadership involves more than day-to-day operational work. It includes being true and enthusiastic about creating visibility for your group, getting your message across, and sharing your accomplishments. Personally, I think this is the way we can create a leadership support network that builds on itself, make our organization stronger. If the leaders of our association are excited and enthusiastic about creating a better tomorrow for APALA and its members, other members will want to join their leaders to move our association forward. Furthermore, by increasing our visibility, we can recruit new members and attract more sponsors to fund our scholarships and programs. However, in order to do this, we need to have a good communication and outreach plan to be able to put our message out there and let our members know what is going on and how they can help. For example, I don’t know any other APALA members in Ohio. So for me, being able to connect to other APALA members and be able to communicate during committee meetings allows me an opportunity to learn what’s going on and feel connected with other members across the nation.
MICD: What about in terms of specifically promoting and advocating on behalf of API library communities and patrons?
EKB: Currently, APALA collaborates with the American Indian Library Association (AILA) on a joint project, “Talk Story: Sharing Stories, Sharing Culture.” This is a literacy program that reaches out to Asian Pacific American (APA) and American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) children and their families. The program celebrates and explores Asian Pacific American (APA) and American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) stories through books, oral traditions, and art to provide an interactive, enriching experience. Children and their families can connect to rich cultural activities through Talk Story in their homes, libraries, and communities. Personally, it would be great if we team up with other ethnic associations or organizations to create library programs that could bring APALA closer to API communities.
MICD: What do you see as APALA’s future collaborative endeavors with ALA and other ethnic affiliates and groups? At the moment, we continue to hear a lot about Talk Story. Are there other collaborative efforts that we are cultivating?
EKB: This past year, I have been very happy to see strong camaraderie and partnership emerge between the new leaders of APALA, AILA, BCALA (Black Caucus of the American Library Association), CALA (Chinese American Librarians Association), and REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking). Some examples of the collaborative work that I can think of at the moment are: our joint efforts in creating an initial Board of Directors for the Joint Council of Librarians of Color (JCLC). This group will work together on the bylaws to be able to incorporate JCLC as a non-profit organization. Another example is participating in CALA’s President Program at ALA Annual 2015. The program “Partnership beyond CALA: Training Leaders of Color for Action” will address how we can work together on training our leaders. This year APALA President’s Program, “Global Roots, Local Identities: Asian International Adoption and Advocacy” will be co-sponsored by ALA’s Video Round Table (VRT). APALA Program Committee Co-Chairs, Janet Clarke (Vice President) and Peter Spyers-Duran, are organizing a great panel featuring the new film “Geographies of Kinship: International Asian Adoption” by award-winning filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem. The panelists are: Dr. Cathy Choy, a historian working on Asian international adoption, and Maria Taesil Hudson Carpenter, a Korean adoptee librarian-activist and APALA member, who has done extensive work at several Korean adoption centers in the Boston and L.A. areas. In addition, we have also teamed up with APA writer and social justice activist, Paul Ocampo, who has received a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Arts to develop a collaborative program at the Manilatown Heritage Foundation during the APALA 35th Anniversary & Symposium. The program will include panelists from APALA, poets, and artists to address how they are invested in incorporating history into their work.
MICD: A great deal of effort and planning is being done to ensure that APALA 35th Anniversary & Symposium will be a great success. How do you see it serving APALA’s future goals and aspirations?
EKB: I think that the fact that we are planning and organizing APALA’s 35th Anniversary & Symposium can only help us in our efforts to raise APALA’s visibility and bring more exposure for our association, our members, and our advocacy work in serving API communities. Another good thing to account for is that the challenges associated with the planning, coordinating, and organizing of the symposium in addition to our regular programs and events for 2015 ALA Annual have only helped our association become stronger. As an example, several of our EB officers, Committee Chairs, and APALA members have accepted the call to wear multiple hats either by chairing or serving on several committees to make APALA’s 35th Anniversary a great celebration! As APALA President, I couldn’t be any more humbled and honored with the work of our volunteers, the support of our partners and sponsors, and the achievements of our association! The commitment of our members and partners to go the extra mile for our association just simply warms my heart! This is a pure testament that no matter what, we are growing new leaders and building a network to establish our core values and vision.
MICD: What idea or impression do you hope attendees will get out of the APALA 35th Anniversary & Symposium?
EKB: To get started, attendees will have a great opportunity to see and listen to Valarie Kaur, our keynote speaker. She is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, civil rights lawyer, and interfaith leader who centers her work on storytelling for social change. She has led campaigns on hate crimes, racial profiling, immigration detention, marriage equality, solitary confinement, and the open Internet. Attendees will also have the chance to learn new ideas from a diverse pool of programs, panels, and posters related to libraries, librarians, advocacy, and API communities. In addition, folks will be able to network during the community fair and learn from the many local organizations in San Francisco serving API communities. Since the theme for the symposium reflects the work we have accomplished during our 35 years of existence and continue to do, it is safe to say that attendees will have a great symposium to attend!
MICD: Any closing remarks for our readers?
EKB: As a librarian of mixed race heritage, I have never felt so welcomed, embraced, and enthusiastic like I am in APALA. Our association is not big compared to others, but there’s something about our smallness that promotes a sense of camaraderie, kindness, togetherness, good-fellowship, unselfishness, high-mindedness, industriousness, and forward-thinking in our members and those around us – APALA is awesome!
Questions written and interview conducted by Melissa I. Cardenas-Dow. Editing and writing support provided by Manlia Xiong.
My parents were always pushing for all of my siblings and me to “go to school and get an education.” Being the “good” daughter that I was, I did what was expected of me. I never once questioned my parents and their motives behind their views on education. I just went to school and got good grades. I grew up in Long Beach, California, where we have the largest concentration of Cambodians outside of Southeast Asia. I assumed that many of my ethnic peers were heeding educational demands from their parents and family. I mean, my parents came from a war-torn country and migrated to the United States, hoping to provide a better life for their children. In theory, this sounds like many immigrants stories, from various origins and backgrounds. Being first-generation Cambodian American, I wanted to rise to the occasion.
Finishing college was always a given. People got degrees all the time, right? It never occurred to me that, as I breezed through my undergraduate years, the majority of my ethnic peers did not graduate from high school. According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates from 2006-2010, “only 13 percent of Cambodian-Americans in Los Angeles County have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 47 percent of Chinese residents and 44 percent of Caucasians” (quoted from Hinojosa, 2014). I was made more aware of these alarming statistics when PBS broadcasted a documentary episode called “Pass or Fail in Cambodia Town.” In the episode, investigative reporter Maria Hinojosa discusses how Asian Americans are the best-educated and highest-income ethnic group in the United States. They are often referred to as the “model minority,” suggesting that all Asian Americans are successful in school and in life. But Southeast Asian Americans have some of the lowest high school completion rates in the nation. The documentary notes that 35.5 percent of Cambodian adults do not have a high school diploma or equivalent (Hinojosa, 2014). I was floored. I asked myself, how could this be? Many of my friends graduated high school like I did. Where did these statistics come from? As I continued my educational journey through college and graduate school, I reflected on my background and I used it as a catalyst to further my studies.
I came to understand that I fell into the stereotypes that are associated with mainstream Asian Americans. My family came to the U.S. to give their children better opportunities. I had an educational standard I adhered to because of the expectations of my parents. I needed to succeed. What I failed to recognize, however, is the fact that as Cambodian American, I am not part of mainstream Asian American communities. Growing up, I felt I had to defend or point out that I wasn’t Chinese or Filipino. Oftentimes, when I corrected people about my ethnicity, they didn’t readily recognize or know where Cambodia is. Unlike other established Asian American communities, Cambodian Americans have a history that is relatively new, as most Cambodian immigrants arrived only in the late 1970s. Wallitt (2008) stresses this point further: “While most modern immigration to the United States consists of voluntary migrants in search of better socioeconomic lives for themselves and their families, Cambodian Americans, in contrast, were refugees who were dislocated by genocide, starvation, and war.” The “elite” of the country—the wealthy, educated Khmer, including those who were trained at passing on Cambodian tradition and knowledge—were executed, as were their families. Those murdered included the intellectuals, teachers, artists, dancers, writers, doctors, politicians, and monks (Wallitt, 2008).
I did see fewer Cambodian Americans as I attended college. When I started graduate school, I was the only Southeast Asian student in my department at Illinois.
There is a great generational gap that also divides the community. Along with having to assimilate into a new culture, there is a silence that stretches between older and younger Cambodians. The war is something that many older Cambodians do not discuss with the younger generation. The older group tends to hold on to their cultural customs and the younger group is intent on learning American ways. This makes it hard for both sides to come to an understanding. This rift between generations affects the children of refugees and, in turn, their educational goals. In “Cambodian Americans and Education: Understanding the Intersections Between Cultural Tradition and U.S. Schooling,” Akiba (2010) notes that Cambodian Americans have unique sociohistorical and political characteristics and are often associated with academic underachievements. Wallitt (2008) also points out that “what is further complicating the situation is the parents’ lack of knowledge about the American educational system.” An American Educational Research Association article published in December 2007, written by Ngo and Lee, explores the struggles of Southeast Asian groups and finds that many refugees had lower English proficiency, less experience with formal education, and also fewer transferrable skills. Ngo and Lee (2007) further assert that most Cambodian American students in K-12 schools today are born and raised in the United States and many struggle with language learning. Compared to Vietnamese Americans and Hmong Americans, Cambodian Americans appear to score lower on standardized tests and earn relatively low grade point averages (Chhuon, Hudley & Macias, 2006). Poverty has been identified as a particularly significant barrier to academic success for Cambodia American students (Ngo & Lee, 2007). “Cambodian-American College Students: Cultural Values and Multiple Worlds,” written by Chhuon, Hudley, and Macias in 2006, reviews literature on the reality of underachievement of the Cambodian American population. In the article, the authors cite various sources and found that “[p]olicymakers usually overlook Cambodian students as a unique ethnic group, attending instead to the positive statistics that aggregate Asian-American students into a single group of successful students” (Chhuon, Hudley & Macias, 2006).
I speak for myself when I say that my parents’ emphasis on education was my foundation. I am disheartened to learn that many of my people have not attained the same results. Growing up in Long Beach, California, I recall there were a lot of people like me. We all went to school, shopped at our local Cambodian grocery stores, dined at the same ethnic restaurants, and yet who knew what really happened in the privacy of their own homes. For as long as I can remember, my parents kept telling me that I needed an education to improve my lot in life. I listened to their advice intently and took it. At the same time, I did see fewer Cambodian Americans as I attended college. When I started graduate school, I was the only Southeast Asian student in my department at Illinois.
As I continued on with my studies, I felt the growing need to give back to and empower my community. Because I was beginning to see the impact and lack of education standards within my community, I decided to be committed to at least trying to improve the image of Cambodian Americans. I focused my studies in archives and public librarianship. By being ensconced in the public library sphere, I am able to work with and assess the needs of the community. I wish to bring a ray of light and hope to those who are not able to help themselves and to continue to share my story and experiences. In a Long Beach Press Telegram article, Dulaney (2015) writes that “in 2010, the Chancellor’s Office of the CSU (California State University system) brought together Asian-American Pacific Islander community leaders to talk about strategies for reaching young people. The result was the Journey to Success program to educate AAPI students and parents about college and financial aid.” It is encouraging to know that universities like California State University, Long Beach are now acknowledging specific, unique issues faced by Southeast Asian Americans by initiating changes and are lobbying support for future educational needs of Cambodian American students.
Christina Nhek, M.S., 2014
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Graduate School of Library & Information Science
Editing assistance provided by Molly Higgins and Alyssa Jocson Porter.
Akiba, D. (2010). Cambodian Americans and education: Understanding the intersections between cultural tradition and U.S. schooling. Educational Forum, 74(4), 328-333. doi: 10.1080/00131725.2010.507117
Chhuon, V., & Hudley, C. (2011). Ethnic and panethnic Asian American identities: Contradictory perceptions of Cambodian students in urban schools. The Urban Review, 43(5), 681-701. doi: 10.1007/s11256-010-0172-8
Chhuon, V., Hudley, C., & Macias, R. (2006). Cambodian-American college students: Cultural values and multiple worlds. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). San Francisco, CA. Retrieved from ERIC: http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED492597
Dulaney, J. (2015, Jan. 19). Why Cal State Long Beach officials are lobbying support for Cambodian students. Long Beach Press Telegram. Retrieved from: http://www.presstelegram.com/social-affairs/20150119/why-cal-state-long-beach-officials-are-lobbying-support-for-cambodian-students
Hinojosa, M. (Anchor, Executive Producer & Managing Editor). (2014, Nov. 6). Pass or fail in Cambodia town [Television series episode]. In America by The Numbers with Maria Hinojosa. Boston, MA: WGBH.
Ngo, B., & Lee, S. J. (2007). Complicating the image of model minority success: A review of Southeast Asian American education. Review of Educational Research, 77(4), 415-453. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4624907
Wallitt, R. (2008). Cambodian invisibility: Students lost between the “achievement gap” and the “model minority.” Multicultural Perspectives, 10(1), 3-9. doi: 10.1080/15210960701869298
by Jennifer Garrett, Michael Qiu and Jungwon Yang
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. This is the second installment in which Jennifer Garrett (North Carolina State University), Michael Qiu (University of Southern California), and Jungwon Yang (University of Michigan) discuss leadership, emotional intelligence, and organizational culture.
For part one in the series, please visit:
We heard that Emotional Intelligence (EI) was one of main themes of the MIECL program. Does the knowledge of EI change your understanding of leadership and self-awareness? How do you apply EI in your workplace?
Jennifer Garrett (JG): As a new professional, applying the lens of Emotional Intelligence in how I understand myself, in addition to how I monitor the emotions of others, has made me a better leader and colleague. EI has become part of my toolbox and has truly changed how I interact with others in the workplace. An overarching focus of MIECL was to introduce tools and theories to help us better understand ourselves. Being knowledgeable of EI has made me more cognizant of my own emotions and how I label and discriminate between these emotions to others and myself. This is definitely difficult! However, I believe recognizing the difficulty involved in perceiving, reasoning, and managing emotions is a key component to being an effective leader.
Michael Qiu (MQ): As we learned about Emotional Intelligence, I developed a better understanding of the struggle individuals in leadership positions face with people from different backgrounds and experiences. We can all remember those leaders that we thought did a “good job” versus the ones that “struggled or did poorly.” I have a better appreciation for all of the struggles and issues they may have encountered trying to work with so many different individuals. After learning about EI, I now understand that leadership is not a task to be taken lightly and it can involve a balancing act of different emotions and people at any one time. The best leaders are able to take everyone’s strengths and best utilize those strengths for the advancement of the group, project, or unit. As an early career librarian, at my first professional position, learning the lay of the land and how my institution works is a challenge. Applying the concept of EI has allowed me to adapt to different situations more easily and better understand the individuals I am working with.
Recognizing the difficulty involved in perceiving, reasoning, and managing emotions is a key component to being an effective leader.
Jungwon Yang (JY): Before I attended the MIECL, I thought that leaders were people who had great willingness and vast knowledge to accomplish new ideas. But, this program showed me that performing emotional intelligence, in fact, was a pivotal element to be a good leader. In particular, it was a great discovery to me that social awareness — that is, understanding organizational culture and having empathy toward my colleagues’ feelings — was helpful for succeeding in my work performance as well as in group performance. Since I am working at a large-sized academic library, I often have a chance to work with colleagues from different units, which have different unit cultures. After the program, I found out that thinking about other people’s feelings and their own cultures made it a lot easier to work with them than before.
What were some of the major themes that emerged in your discussion of organizational culture and how have you integrated what you learned into your workplace practice?
JG: The discussion of organizational culture at MIECL was one of the most eye-opening of the week. In being asked to describe our organization’s culture to one another, this really helped make me more mindful of the uniqueness of my institution, while also appreciating the similarities that exist across organizations. Additionally, DeEtta used the iceberg metaphor to help us understand that the values and beliefs that make up the bulk of organizational culture, are often not visible from the surface. One of the main themes that emerged during this activity, is that we only learn to navigate these deeply held assumptions, over time. Following this discussion, I began to realize that I was largely navigating my organization’s unspoken characteristics without being as mindful of them as I should. Once I returned to work, I began drafting my personal and professional learning goals. Being able to place these goals in line with the seen and unseen culture of my organization has made me more successful.
MQ: I believe two major themes emerged in this discussion. The first is even though we think we are all different and unique, there are common, underlying issues that are present in every organization. So if organization x thinks they are the one and only going through a problem, I bet that there are at least another dozen organizations with the same problem. Whenever I have a problem, I know there are others I can consult and lean on who have been through the same situation. The second theme is that understanding organizational culture is important for understanding the implications when taking on new projects, roles, and/or positions. As we have new projects come up in the library, knowing the organizational culture has allowed me to step up and take charge of these projects. These new responsibilities help shape my career and prepare me for the future.
JY: As new librarians, we sometimes struggle with getting respect from our colleagues about our own ideas. During the discussion, we talked about how to resolve the problem in our organization. A useful lesson was that we needed to understand our own organizational cultures to communicate with our colleagues effectively. More importantly, even if our idea was not taken seriously by people right now, we learned that we did not need to be frustrated. Organizational culture is not static. It changes over time. So, our ideas can be adopted in the future when the issue emerges in a different way. As Pasteur said, “chance favors only the prepared mind.”
Editing assistance provided by Molly Higgins and Manlia Xiong.
This third essay continues APALA’s advocacy fatigue mini-series. Written by APALA member Cynthia Mari Orozco, who is also the 2015 APALA-sponsored ALA Emerging Leader, this reflective piece is about seeking inspiration and support beyond the library world. Librarianship, as a helping profession, exacts high emotional costs. Because of this, renewal is a crucial aspect of self-care and, therefore, professional development. Library advocacy is one area in which we can strongly see the professional and the personal working and developing each other.
In anticipation of APALA’s 35th Anniversary & Symposium, we take a closer look at the very human aspect of advocacy work—fatigue.
~ Melissa I. Cardenas-Dow, APALA Web Content Sub-committee Chair, 2012-Present
Phil Yu, a.k.a. Angry Asian Man, says it best: “Stay angry.” For me as a librarian, this translates as “Stay angry… at inequity in access to information, surveillance in ebooks or censorship.” In relation to library and information activism, this could extend to “Stay passionate… about user-centered services, diverse books and open access.” These examples barely scratch the surface of the many issues for which librarians advocate or combat against.
But being angry, or passionate, requires an incredible amount of effort, time, and strength. It can be extremely taxing to sustain one’s energy. While we still care, a number of factors can beat down on us and cause us fatigue. Maybe an innovative library program you propose isn’t supported by your colleagues or administration. Maybe you hear a colleague oppose the idea of user-centered services. In my professional life, I have come to rely on a number of networks to sustain and invigorate my passion and energy, both in non-library circles and within the greater library community.
Shortly after I started working at my current institution, I also became involved with a local group called Tuesday Night Project (TNP), which describes itself as “an Asian American grassroots and volunteer-based organization fiercely devoted to bridging communities by providing programming and interactive spaces for people to connect through artistic expression and strong, creative, community partnerships.” Its main program is Tuesday Night Cafe, which hosts a free, twice a month (April through October) curated program of multidisciplinary visual and performing art, as well as an open mic. I’m usually tired at the end of my work day, but on these particular Tuesdays, I make an effort to go up to Little Tokyo in Los Angeles and dedicate some of my time to this incredible space. Despite often coming into the space tired, preoccupied with projects I’m working on, and maybe sometimes a little demoralized, I’m instantly reenergized by the passion and love that emanate from this space. I surround myself with artists and art lovers, community organizers, educators, students, friends, and everything, everyone, in-between. I talk to people from a wide range of backgrounds, about what they’re doing in their lives, and I become inspired by amazing people, projects and collaborations. I also have the opportunity to talk about my library ideas without resistance. My ideas are not met with discouraging comments like, “It won’t work,” or “There’s no money for that” or any other obstacles. Instead, I consistently get positive energy and genuine “That’s incredible!” or “You got this!” For me, the Tuesday Night Cafe space provides an additional forum outside of my institution to ask faculty and students from other universities about their insights on library services. This brings me non-libraryland perspectives into conversations, which can be extremely valuable.
Everyone needs a cheerleader. Surround yourself with positivity and people devoted to making incredible things happen, even if they’re not in libraries. Through my experience with TNP, I’ve gained emotional sustenance, perspective, and friends. Determine what communities, spaces, and individuals complement your professional and personal self to support you now and into the next phase of your life. Ideas and innovation flourish with support. Break out and build a network of support that works for you.
Editing assistance provided by Jaena Rae Cabrera and Melissa Cardenas-Dow.