APA Library Leader Interview — Lisa Chow, New York

Lisa Chow: Advocate and Visionary of Re-shaping the Library Landscape

by Dawn Wing

Meet Lisa Chow. She is an information professional extraordinaire whose mission is to bring people-centered design into libraries. Even before finishing library school at Pratt Institute, Lisa had already honed her skills and passion for initiating, developing and managing outcome-based projects. Currently, she is half of People Interact, a consultancy that works with libraries and nonprofits to implement creative solutions to effectively improve individual and organizational performance by focusing on the human element.Lisa also works as a Web Analyst in Brooklyn Public Library’s IT/Web Applications department where she continually seeks and implements new ways of serving patrons.

Lisa is widely recognized in the library world for her advocacy as a Special Libraries Association (SLA) Rising Star, Library Journal (LJ) Mover & Shaker, American Library Association (ALA) Emerging Leader, and Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Diversity Scholar. In this interview, Lisa provides refreshing insights for information professionals of all stages in their careers and dares us to think outside the box.

Dawn Wing (DW):  What was your journey towards librarianship?

Lisa Chow (LC): When I was exploring career options for biology majors, I came across medical librarianship. While medical librarianship is what got me interested in librarianship, I have become interested in many different areas of librarianship since then and decided not to limit myself or my career.

Before college, I volunteered at the neighborhood library of Brooklyn Public Library where I started off as a book buddy, then computer coach, and then special events coordinator (probably the fanciest job title I’ve ever had).

What are my sources of inspiration? I’ve got a poster of “50 Reasons Not to Change” posted at work. You can find the poster and other sources of inspiration:   http://sites.google.com/site/lisachow23/inspiration

DW: What is your philosophy as a librarian and how has this shaped your career?  

LC: Designing and making libraries accessible to all, the idea of universal design. Empowering people to use information to make informed decisions. It’s about people.

DW: You have a lot of experience taking initiatives to improve library services. Could you provide some history and background information regarding your co-founding of People Interact and various (un)conferences? What was your thought process and motivation behind these initiatives?

LC: My colleague and partner-in-crime Sandra Sajonas and I co-founded People Interact. We started blogging at http://peopleinteract.wordpress.com over 3 years ago. We are passionate about helping organizations and professionals adapt in our rapidly changing world. Inspired by user experience design, our work is guided by a people-centered philosophy of making sure that people are not lost in the shuffle. We work with libraries and nonprofits to implement creative solutions to effectively improve individual and organizational performance by focusing on the human element.

What do we do:

  • Design thinking and impact-based assessment: program and service design, space planning and utilization, strategic planning process, usability and user experience, workflow and processes.
  • Unconferences for organizational development: staff unconferences, thematic unconferences.
  • Leadership and career development: presentations, succession planning, webinars, workshops.

DW:  What exactly is an (un)conference? What got you interested in spearheading (un)conferences?  How did you go about planning one?

LC: An unconference is a participant-driven event where the discussion topics are determined by the participants and the focus is on the collective knowledge of the group.

I attended my first unconference in 2007, LibraryCampNYC at Baruch College:  http://librarycampnyc.wikispaces.com.  I really enjoyed the informalness and openness of LibraryCampNYC. I felt like I got more ideas and inspiration out of an unconference than a traditional conference.

Shortly after attending the event, Brooklyn Public Library was planning the annual staff development day and I thought the unconference concept might be a good idea to test drive and incorporate into staff development day. However, it seemed like the planning committee was well into the final planning stages of staff development day. It actually worked out better as its own event. I formed a team and Brooklyn Public Library had its first staff unconference – BPL ThinkTank in May 2008. A few years later, I was talking to a good colleague and mentor and we thought it would be great to do a health themed unconference. Shortly after, I formed a team to organize HealthCampNYC, a regional health unconference focused on using collective knowledge to improve health literacy and community health.

Organizing an unconference is like organizing any kind of event. However, there are four principles of unconferences and the law of two feet or motion.

The four principles are:

  • Whoever comes is the right group of people
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
  • Whenever it starts is the right time
  • When it’s over, it’s over.

The law of two feet or motion states that “any persons neither learning from nor contribution to a group discussion must walk [or move] to another one.”

If you would like to learn more about unconferences, I co-authored a Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) LibGuide on unconferences. It’s a guide on unconferences and tools, resources and tips for doing your own unconference:  http://libguides.metro.org/unconferences

DW: What were some reactions and outcomes from (un)conference participants?   How is it different from attending a traditional professional development conference?  Do you think (un)conferences inherently allow for more diverse perspectives and participation because of its openness?

LC: An unconference is a participant-driven event where the discussion topics are determined by the participants and the focus is on the collective knowledge of the group. Unconferences are about participation and its openness does allow for a better flow of ideas. However, unconferences like conferences depend on their organizers and participants/attendees.

The BPL ThinkTank unconference gave staff a chance to explore new ideas in librarianship freely in an open and informal environment. Some of those ideas included: clear and consistent communication, transparency of processes, more training opportunities, sharing accomplishments, and flexibility with technology. There were positive reactions from participants and management hosted three follow-up sessions with participants. Participants said the BPL ThinkTank unconference was productive and they liked the positive and energetic atmosphere and that they got to choose the topics. Since then, the unconference concept has been integrated into regular staff trainings and meetings. One participant said it best: “A fun, relaxed atmosphere truly fosters creativity.”

The HealthCampNYC unconference, while regional, attracted worldwide interest, with visits to the event wiki from over 800 visitors from 222 cities. We had individuals who asked if there was a way to participate remotely. Participants said the HealthCampNYC unconference helped them start collaborations, network and share resources, and that it had a great impact on the overall health conversation. Since then, we followed up with participants and as a result of HealthCampNYC, they are working on articles, partnerships, collaborations, and grant-funded projects.

Image of Lisa Chow, taken in 2007 for Medical Library Association.

Lisa Chow, co-founder of People Interact.

DW:  How does your diversity influence your work ethic?

LC: I’ve got a “50 Reasons Not to Change” poster at my desk with tidbits like “We’ve never done that before” and “We’ve always done it that way”. I hear a lot of reasons to not change the ways libraries have always done things. Sometimes things need to change in order to improve library services and processes for both staff and patrons. As a result, I find myself doing things differently than many of my colleagues. For example, I’ve initiated pilot projects and organized events without management approval. It’s easier to apologize than to ask for permission. An example is the Library Workers’ Skill Share event. I teamed up with two other Library Journal Movers & Shakers to organize the event in an effort to provide support for all NYC library workers who are job hunting, unemployed, facing potential layoffs or simply looking to freshen up their skills. Over 80 people attended the event, which included panels, workshops, one-on-one speed mentoring, resume review, speed business coaching sessions, and a networking & resource room. My co-event organizers, being in the education and job division, were allowed to use work time, since it’s a job-related event. However, I was not in that division, so I had to use my own time. This is the kind of library tradition way of doing things that doesn’t make any sense. For me, it didn’t matter whether or not I had to use my own time, because I was co-organizing this event as a librarian, regardless of the organization that I was working at. It just would have been better and a little easier if the library organization didn’t give me a hard time about it while I was trying to organize an event for library workers in less than three months.

DW:  What skills or talents do you recommend that diverse professionals might develop as they seek to enter and grow in various areas of librarianship?

LC:

  • Study what you’re interested in, whether that means generalizing or specializing in library school.
  • Set up informational interviews to learn more about topics and areas of interest.
  • Step out of your comfort zone.
  • Be comfortable and familiar with technology, not necessarily knowing and learning every software/tool/platform out there but being aware and able to make decisions about what technology would be useful and relevant to your users (staff and/or patrons).

DW:  What advice would you give young professionals, especially those from diverse backgrounds, who are interested in becoming a library leader?

LC: Take advantage of scholarships, stipends, various mentoring and leadership programs and initiatives that support early career librarians or library school students and/or diversity in the profession. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Find a partner-in-crime. Step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to nominate yourself. I nominated myself for SLA Rising Star. You’ve gotta toot your own horn.

 

Check out resources and slides from Lisa Chow’s leadership and career development presentations and webinars:  http://peopleinteract.wordpress.com/portfolio/leadership-and-career-development

To read more about Lisa Chow’s projects, please visit her e-portfolio:
http://sites.google.com/site/lisachow23/special-projects

 

Editing assistance provided by Melissa Cardenas-Dow.

Regular Registration for APALA @ ALA14 Still Open!

Registration for the APALA Tour and the APALA Literature Banquet are still open!

Tour of the Innovative Zappos Headquarters and the Downtown Project Hosted by APALA

Please join us for an APALA fundraising event with a tour of the fabulous Zappos corporate headquarters and the community-focused Downtown Project, both owned by Asian-American leader Tony Hsieh. Your donation supports APALA’s scholarships and awards including the ALA Emerging Leaders Sponsorship and the Sheila Suen Lai Research Grant, plus events like our upcoming 35th Anniversary Celebration in 2015!

We will meet at Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel on Friday, June 27, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. and return at 2:30 p.m​. Transportation will be provided, and we hope you can come and network with other librarians over lunch downtown! (lunch included with registration)

Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel
3555 South Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Regular Registration for Members (June 8 – June 25) $ 30.00
Registration for Non-Members (June 8 – June 25) $ 35.00
Onsite/Late Registration (after June 25) $ 40.00

To register: http://www.apalaweb.org/resources/registration/

Celebrate the Best in Asian/Pacific American Literature at the 2014 APALA Literature Awards Banquet

The annual awards program will be held from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Saturday June 28, 2014 at KJ Dim Sum & Seafood Restaurant in conjunction with the 2014 ALA Annual Conference. Several winning authors have confirmed in attending the banquet.

Children’s Literature Winner: Cynthia Kadohata. The Thing About Luck.
Picture Book Winner: Ji-li Jiang. Red Kite, Blue Kite.
Picture Book Honor: Marissa Moss. Barbed Wire Baseball, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu.
Young Adult Literature Winner: Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani. Jet Black and the Ninja Wind.
Adult Non-Fiction Winner: Cindy I-Fen Cheng. Citizens of Asian America: Democracy and Race during the Cold War

Following the formal presentation and dinner buffet, authors will be available for book signing.

Restaurant information:

KJ Dim Sum & Seafood Restaurant
3700 W. Flamingo Rd.
Las Vegas, 89103

Regular Registration for Members (June 8 – June 26) $ 40.00
Registration for Non-Members (June 8 – June 26) $ 45.00
Onsite/Late Registration (after June 26) $ 50.00

To register: http://www.apalaweb.org/resources/registration/

If you need to renew your APALA membership, go to http://www.apalaweb.org/membership/join-or-renew/

Spotlight on Ariana Sani Hussain: An Emerging Leader

by Jaena Rae Cabrera

Ariana Sani Hussain is a Children’s Librarian at the District of Columbia Public Library in Washington, D.C. She has been an APALA member since 2011. She currently serves on the Family Literacy Focus Committee, which promotes the Talk Story Program, a joint literacy project between APALA and AILA (American Indian Library Association), and is a member of the Task Force on Library Services to APAs. She has also been part of the 2013-2014 Literature Award Committee for Picture Books.

Ariana was selected as an ALA Emerging Leader for 2014, sponsored by APALA. The ALA Emerging Leaders program is intended to be a leadership development program for new library workers (not necessarily librarians!) who have less than 5 years of experience working at a professional or paraprofessional level in a library.

On her time with APALA, Ariana writes:

Joining APALA really correlated with my becoming more involved as a library professional and trying to step up into the role. I also think that it helped being more visible and to see how encouraging and supportive everyone is of each other. I did participate in the mentor program. Angela Boyd was my mentor and she was pretty awesome. I think APALA did a great job following up on our progress and areas of interest, but it also helped to have someone just listen to my concerns and validate my worries, fears and progress.

Previous EL participants, Lessa Pelayo-Lozada and Susan Hoang, offered me help and advice for participation. Springer gave APALA the funds for this year and last year’s ELs, I believe, so I met with our EB and Springer at ALA Midwinter to take photos. Of course, everyone has been very supportive and congratulatory, but because we don’t have a specific APALA project this year, I have not had much interaction with APALA in terms of related projects. Other APALA members involved in this year’s class are Annie Pho, Ray Pun and maybe a few others, but I’m not certain. Unfortunately, there is not too much directed interaction, other than the initial day, between ELs outside of our groups, except through Facebook and other informal connections.

On being an ALA Emerging Leader, she writes:

It actually took me a really long time to decide to apply. A former Emerging Leader and fellow librarian at DC Public Library, Ana Elisa de Campos Salles, spoke highly of the program and recommended that I apply. I am by nature, more of a support player than leader, so the idea of applying for an emerging leaders program was just a little intimidating. Also, the application has questions that delved into previous leadership experiences and assessing one’s strengths and weaknesses. I am notoriously bad at doing these kinds of things! Seeing evidence and recognition of my work makes me happy, but is also a little cringe-worthy.

I was, however, very intrigued about the program and thought that it would help me, not only with long-term goals in the profession, but also in my day-to-day interactions within my system, with administrators, stakeholders and patrons in my library system and local community. I mentioned in my WYN piece for APALA that I felt that I had held back during library school and lost the opportunity to gain really solid professional development opportunities when it came to ALA and leadership in general. I thought that the Emerging Leaders program would offer me the chance to catch up and to develop a stronger skillset, and give me clarity to develop into the kind of leader that I want to be.

The Emerging Leaders program enables selected participants, 50 at most, to participate in problem-solving working groups, working on selected topics that pertain to ALA divisions, chapters and round tables. We learn more about ALA as an organization and serving on committees and task forces. We have participants this year from a variety of organizations from public, academic, school libraries, corporate and even one awesome LIS student who is being sponsored by AILA, and works at a community college/community and tribal facility.

We first meet at Midwinter then work on our projects in a virtual collaborative environment, culminating in a poster session presentation at Annual.

This year’s EL projects are pretty varied and very cool. It was hard to decide on one particular proposal. I am currently in a group working on a project for the Map & Geospatial Information Round Table (MAGIRT). The scope of our project is part marketing and outreach, and part identifying gaps in services, service outreach and possible partnerships. I wanted to do something a little different and a little challenging, and I thought that the project was interesting and would be a good fit. Any mapping or map/GIS related programs that APALA would be interested in?  :)

I enjoy working and networking with my group members, our coordinator and all the Emerging Leaders. They are all pretty cool people, who have interesting ideas and have done some pretty impressive things so far, and I’m interested to see what greatness they will achieve in the future. EL projects keep us pretty busy, but we also have opportunities to participate in webinars and a few other leadership development exercises.

For anyone considering applying to the EL program, Ariana writes:

I think that there are benefits for students to participate in EL in that it’s a very good opportunity to meet with liaisons to groups and get involved in ALA, but it has been a substantial amount of work (maybe that’s just my committee). I don’t think that students wouldn’t be able to handle the pace, we have students that are participating, but I do feel that it’s a good opportunity for new professionals.

Image of ALA-Emerging Leader 2014 Trading Card featuring Ariana Hussain.Ariana Hussain ALA-EL Trading Card (back)

If you’re attending ALA Annual in Las Vegas, meet Ariana and the rest of the 2014 group of ELs at a poster session and reception from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. on Friday, June 27 at the Las Vegas Hotel in Pavilion 01. The ELs will showcase their final projects at the poster session.

 

Editing assistance provided by Raymond Wang.

APALA President’s Program 2014: Immigration Reform, Asian Americans and Librarianship

APALA and Eugenia Beh, APALA President 2013-2014, will be hosting the APALA President’s Program on Sunday, June 29, 2014 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, N258. 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Asian Americans are the second fastest growing immigrant population in the US, yet little attention has been paid to their role in the debate over immigration reform. This program will focus on the impact of immigration reform to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and how libraries and librarians can help Asian immigrants navigate the immigration system.

Please join us for a stimulating panel discussion, featuring the following presenters:

Image of Evan Louie.Evan Louie is a local Las Vegas, Nevada business owner and one of the original founders of the first Pacific Islander Fraternity, Tau Omega Alpha. He was a spokesperson for the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, advocated the FDA to approve new cancer treatments, and helped create the first NHPI (Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander) disaggregated national demographic report in history. Evan also helped organize local and national groups to support immigration reform for AAPIs (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders). In October 2013, he was appointed by the Nevada state legislative committee to be the Nevada State Commissioner of Minority Affairs. Some of the awards Evan has received include the National Parent of the Year Award, Unsung Hero of Las Vegas Valley from Greenspun Media, Clark County School District and Nevada PTA award, accommodation awards from US Congress and US Senate, and several local community awards.

 

Image of Jade Alburo.Jade Alburo is the Librarian for Southeast Asian Studies, Pacific Islands Studies, and Religion at the Charles E. Young Research Library at UCLA. She is currently APALA’s Immediate Past President and Co-Chair of its 35th Anniversary & Symposium Steering Committee. Born and raised in the Philippines, Jade immigrated to the US with her family when she was a teenager. She has a BA in English and Religious Studies from UC Berkeley, an MA in Folklore from Memorial University of Newfoundland, and an MLS from the University of Maryland, College Park. Prior to UCLA, she was a Reference Librarian in the Humanities & Social Sciences Division of the Library of Congress and a CIRLA Fellow with the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Her research interests include: Filipino/Filipino-American culture & diaspora, folklore/ethnography, and social media and fandoms.

 

Image of Loida Garcia-Febo.Loida Garcia-Febo is an international librarian, consultant, author, speaker, researcher and writer of topics such as human rights, advocacy and services to multicultural populations. Loida is President of Information New Wave, an international non-profit seeking to enhance the education of ethnically diverse communities in the USA and in developing countries. She collaborates with worldwide organizations to help diverse populations internationally. Loida also frequently speaks to the media including ABC, CNN, NPR, Univision, Telemundo and New York Times. She has taught in 19 countries in five continents and has spoken at United Nations events and others coordinated by the US Embassies in Spain, Mexico and Tokyo. Loida is a member of the Governing Board of IFLA and the Council of the American Library Association. She was born, raised and educated in Puerto Rico.

 

Rex Velasquez is from Velasquez Immigration Law Group.

 

Image of Roberto Delgadillo.Roberto C. Delgadillo is a Humanities, Social Sciences and Government Information Services Librarian at the Peter J. Shields Library at the University of California, Davis. His areas of responsibility include: Literatures in English, Education, Chicana/o Studies, Religious Studies, Disability Studies, and Military Science. Born in Managua, Nicaragua, Roberto’s family moved to the United States in 1975. Roberto has a BA in Modern German and Russian History from UC Santa Cruz, and a MLIS and a PhD in Modern Latin American History, both from UCLA. His research interests include urban folklore, civil military relations and the information-seeking behavior of undergraduate and graduate students. He is a former reference and acquisitions librarian with the Hispanic Services Division of the Inglewood Public Library and former copy cataloger with the Beverly Hills Public Library. Roberto currently serves as a Member-at-Large for ALA Council. Since 2005, Roberto has also served as the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM)’s Rapporteur General (2005-2012), Member-at-Large (2008-2011) and immediate Past President (2013-2014), recently having overseen its annual meeting in Brigham Young University. Roberto is also a 2012 recipient of The Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award.

 

Rozita Lee is from Rozita V. Lee Consulting.

 

Editing assistance provided by Melissa Cardenas-Dow.

 

APA Collections: East at Main Street Project

by Melissa I. Cardenas-Dow

Some time in mid-April 2014, I had a brief conversation with Donna Graves, Project Co-Director of East at Main Street, a mapping project of the Asian & Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation (APIAHiP) and located online in the crowd-sourced, web-based mapping tool, HistoryPin. Please visit East at Main Street and contribute! URL: http://www.historypin.com/project/51-east-at-main-street

Below is an article on our online conversation, edited for clarity and brevity.

 

 

Melissa Cardenas-Dow (MICD): Thanks for agreeing to speak with me about APIAHiP and the East at Main Street Mapping Project. First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your role in APIAHiP and the Mapping Project?

Front page of APIAHiP's East at Main Street Mapping Project

Front page of APIAHiP’s East at Main Street Mapping Project

Donna Graves (DG): I am a public historian and community planner based in Northern California. I am the Co-Director of the East at Main Street Mapping Project with Michelle Magalong.APIAHiP is a grassroots organization of people who are committed to preserving historic and cultural places important to diverse APIA communities.

APIAHiP has, to-date, conducted two national forums that have been attended by approximately 300 people. These gatherings have been very inspiring and encouraging, bringing together many different people from a variety of fields and backgrounds, sharing practices and expertise. The third national forum will be held in September 2014 in Washington DC. Even though these forums have been wonderful, we wanted to find a way for people who may not be able to attend them to participate and engage in historic preservation of Asian/Pacific Islander American heritage. The East at Main Street Mapping Project on HistoryPin is one way for us to accomplish this. It’s a newly launched project that allows participants to share photos, text, images, and videos about important places from their personal or institutional collections. We are combining memories captured through digital objects and place-based or location-based gathering.

 

MICD: So, if I understand you correctly, hypothetically speaking, old photographs of a street corner where my great uncle would gather with his other Asian American peers and transcripts from an interview I conducted with him are welcome?

DG: Yes! We are interested in a broad range of sources, not just known, identified, and designated historic landmarks. We hope to uncover knowledge of life and cultural practices from various perspectives. A parade route, for instance, would be a great cultural practice to record. We accept images, video clips, and text pinned onto the HistoryPin map of the East at Main Street Project. We want to see both more scholarly-based and more community-based information shared on the Project map.

 

HistoryPins for APIAHiP's East at Main Street Mapping Project

HistoryPins for APIAHiP’s East at Main Street Mapping Project

MICD: What goals or purpose does the East at Main Street Mapping Project hope to achieve?

DG: Broadly speaking, we hope to achieve greater, wider exposure to the APIA communities’ contributions to American history. Just speaking about historic landmarks alone, less than 5% of sites on the National Register are significant to communities of color.

In another sense, East at Main Street Mapping Project is very timely. The National Park Service is currently conducting the first national theme study done about APIA history and historic sites. Their process tends to be more academic and it can be really difficult to ground the scholarship to place and geography. East at Main Street is a promising complement to bridge scholarly and community-based knowledge about APIA heritage.

Michelle and I are on the Advisory Committee for the NPS study. East at Main Street Mapping Project is partially funded by the NPS National Center for Preservation Training and Technology. In this context, we see the purpose of East at Main Street as: 1) aid the NPS theme study; and 2) raise the visibility of APIA historic sites and landmarks, as well as sites significant to community-based and cultural practices.

 

MICD: Do the submissions go through any kind of review process before it goes up onto the map?

DG: Our emphasis for the East at Main Street Mapping Project is not to come up with a heavily curated collection of information and sites. We are very much interested in enabling community visibility and participation. The first tier of review is done by HistoryPin, after that Michelle and I go through the submissions. We’ve found that East at Main Street is a great way to able to extend the life of the community history work people may have already done. Pinning information on the map allows organizations to find a new audience for projects and scholarship that is being done on this subject, and, we hope, will make East at Main Street Mapping Project a new venue for this type of knowledge-sharing and discussion.

 

 

MICD: What message would you give to users and other organizations to communicate the value of East at Main Street Mapping Project?

DG: We are very much interested in raising community participation, so we’ve been conducting workshops on the East Coast and will be scheduling Google Hangout sessions and webinars. The next workshop will be held at the Riverside Municipal Museum in Riverside, Calif. on Saturday, May 31, 2014, from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.  Please rsvp, since space is limited.

 

For more information, please refer to the APIAHiP blog http://apiahipmappingproject.blogspot.com.  More workshops and webinars are being planned and will be posted on the blog as soon as details are ready.

Interested in participating? Please see the Getting Started booklet available at http://blog.historypin.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/East-At-Main_Getting-Started-Guide-final.pdf.

 

Editing assistance provided by Donna Graves and Jeremiah Paschke-Wood.

 

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