by Melissa I. Cardenas-Dow
A leader in librarianship need not be in administration or management. This feature essay on an Asian/Pacific American library leader focuses on Daniel C. Tsang, currently Distinguished Librarian and Data Librarian at University of California, Irvine, where he is also Bibliographer of Asian American Studies, Political Science, Economics, French & Italian, and the Orange County Documents. I met Dan a few years back. Recently, he visited my current place of work, University of California, Riverside, where he gave a series of talks on data librarianship and union work as a librarian at a public university. I was very inspired by his body of work and message.
Following his presentations and several brief, inperson discussions with him in mid-March 2015, I initiated an email conversation with Dan in mid-April 2015. I sent Dan the questions we send to all our library leader interviewees, which focus on his background and his thoughts on library leadership and diversity. This article provides an edited, perhaps too brief, version of Dan’s responses.
~ Melissa Cardenas-Dow, Web Content Subcommittee Chair
Melissa Cardenas-Dow (MICD): Tell us a little bit about yourself, your career to-date?
Daniel Tsang (DT): I grew up in Hong Kong and I came to the U.S. in the 1960s. My mom was born in the U.S. but went to Hong Kong after university. Then, being the period of turmoil with the sexual revolution and the Vietnam War, I became an activist when I became a librarian. I started working at Temple University’s Contemporary Culture Collection in 1978. I was totally immersed in the alternative press as a contributor, editor, and collector, both personally and professionally. I have been a bibliographer at the University of California Irvine Libraries for almost 30 years.
MICD: What ways do you see yourself as a diverse professional?
DT: I am immersed both professionally and personally in documenting social change.
MICD: Please describe an instance in which diversity played a beneficial role in your library work.
DT: Our newspaper collection at University of California, Irvine was very Euro-centric and I managed to get involved in a newspaper committee that changed the policy so that we collected more broadly. Earlier, at the Philadelphia Free Library, I raised a question why they weren’t preserving the Philadelphia Gay News. After that, the library administration began microfilming it.
MICD: Has it been challenging to move up the leadership ladder? How did you make the move from middle to upper management?
DT: I’m not in upper management, actually. Just a senior line librarian.
MICD: How does diversity influence your leadership style?
DT: I think I am more aware of how people get excluded and how certain cues from people of color are misread as concurrence. So I try to be more open to nonverbal cues.
MICD: What attributes do you look for in future leaders?
DT: Non-rigid styles and willingness to listen.
MICD: Are these the same skills, talents and qualities you recommend diverse professionals develop as they seek new leadership positions? Please explain further.
DT: Definitely, one can learn from anyone.
MICD: What advice would you give to young professionals, especially those from diverse backgrounds?
DT: Be passionate about what you believe in. Speak out, but be strategic in what you say and do. Find someone who can be a mentor in the library.
MICD: How about advice for midcareer professionals, especially those who are interested in moving into higher management?
DT: Do not forget your roots or the union! Don’t turn anti-union.
MICD: What message would you give to library administrators regarding the value of diverse leaders and how they might grow under those leaders within their organizations?
DT: Try not to find token leaders but value each worker as an individual. Offer praise not just criticism.
Editing assistance provided by Molly Higgins.
05/28/2015: This piece was edited to indicate the correct names of library locations where Dan made change efforts. Many thanks to Dan for pointing out our errors. ~Melissa
APALA President’s Program will feature a dynamic discussion between Dr. Catherine Ceniza Choy, a professor of Ethnic Studies at UC-Berkeley and Maria Taesil Hudson Carpenter, the City Librarian of the Santa Monica Public Library System. They will examine the issues raised by Geographies of Kinship: International Asian Adoption, a new film by award-winning Berkeley-based filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem, in the larger context of international adoption and reflect on universal questions of identity, assimilation, family, community, and advocacy. Excerpts from the film and a personal introduction especially produced for this program by Deann will be shown. The APALA President’s Program is co-sponsored by APALA and VRT.
Dear APALA colleagues,
Congratulations to our incoming Executive Board members, who will be serving under the leadership of incoming President Janet Clarke, and thank you to all of the candidates who ran for office! All terms will begin after the 2015 ALA Annual Conference.
Secretary: Anna Coats
Member-at-Large (2015-2017): Ariana Hussain
Member-at-Large (2015-2017): Brian Leaf
President: Janet Clarke
Treasurer : Dora Ho
Member-at-Large (2014-2016): Melissa Cardenas-Dow
Member-at-Large (2014-2016): Paolo Guxilde
Immediate Past-President: Eileen Bosch
by Melissa I. Cardenas-Dow
Jeremiah Paschke-Wood joined APALA in 2013 and is currently the Head of Instruction at the Edith Garland Dupré Library at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He attended library school at University of Arizona’s School of Information Resources and Library Science.
Asked about his reasons for joining APALA, Jeremiah writes:
I thought APALA presented a nice opportunity to do what I could to advocate for librarians of Asian American heritage (as well as other less-represented backgrounds) as well as interact/network with and get to know some other cool librarians that could appreciate good home-cooked Filipino and Chinese food.
Jeremiah is of mixed heritage. Regarding his ethnic background, he states:
So, contrary to how it probably appears via my picture (or name), I’m ¼ Filipino on my mother’s side. She was born in Hawaii to a Filipino mother and a very-white service member father. My dad’s side is very Scandinavian as well. So the end result is a 6-foot-tall, red-bearded white guy with a lot of extended family with names like Corazon and Bonifacio who only looks Filipino when he shaves everything but the moustache off. Best of both worlds, I guess, right? My wife and I also shared names when we got married, taking my family name even further away from the Asian side of the family. I’ve always been very proud to grow up in a very diverse and inclusive family and culture, and I can honestly say that I feel as in touch with the “minority” side of my upbringing as the white one.
Jeremiah’s professional role as an instruction librarian has required him to invest time and effort on the ACRL standards and teaching methods. We asked him about his current professional outlook, goals and interests:
I think one thing that we have to do as librarians moving forward, particularly with issues with funding and technological changes, is find ways to be more proactive in both dealing with students and faculty. I’ve tried to be more involved with outreach and “hitting the streets” to create those relationships with the university community that might not have existed before. I think it’s also important, particularly with demand for library instruction increasing, to find new ways to provide library instruction that is actually relevant and useful for students–and doesn’t take 40 hours a week to do so. In terms of other professional goals and interests, I’d like to continue to meet and work with lots of librarians from different backgrounds and upbringings–particularly since so many of the students we work with are from different communities and cultures.
Jeremiah is an eloquent writer and blogger. He had worked with APALA’s Newsletter & Publications Committee and the Web Content Subcommittee on many tasks and authored a number of articles.
Interview conducted by Melissa I. Cardenas-Dow. Editing and writing support provided by Alyssa Jocson Porter.