by Melissa Cardenas-Dow
APALA member Monnee Tong has just finished her ALA Emerging Leaders experience with the rest of the 2014 ALA-EL class. She is a librarian at the San Diego Public Library system, working in the newly built Central Library @ Joan Λ Irwin Jacobs Common, the central branch of the system. Monnee has been at her position in San Diego since June 2012, when she was hired right after graduation from the iSchool at the University of Washington. She holds a B.A. in the History of Art from the University of California, Berkeley.
Of her career path to librarianship, Monnee writes: “Before I became a librarian, I worked in educational publishing, a very different professional environment from public libraries (even though they both involve books!)… It’s been a whirlwind two years, jam-packed with a whole lot of learning, but it’s all been worth it.
What I love most about being a librarian is what I missed in publishing—people! I love connecting with different people, whether they are my supportive and collaborative co-workers at SDPL, the teen interns I supervise in our new multimedia lab, the partner organizations we work with to bring free services and programs to the community, or the patron who just discovered the oversize section in Art & Music. People make my job rewarding, challenging, and never boring.
Monnee is a new APALA member and is part of the 2013-2015 Picture Book Literature Committee, which is responsible for selecting the awardees of the annual Asian American Literature prize for picture books. For Monnee, the work of the APALA Picture Book Literature Committee has a strong personal connection:
Although I’m from diverse California, I grew up in a rural town in the Sierra Foothills with almost no Asian Pacific American peers, especially none with parents who were immigrants like mine. I was always searching (and still searching!) for characters in books who resembled my experience in some way, shape or form. I’m really happy to be part of this committee so I can learn about and promote API authors and stories.
Monnee’s ALA Emerging Leader team project is an interesting study in virtual collaboration. Of it, she writes: “Our Emerging Leader group (which included fellow ELs Ray Pun, Sam Suber, and Leila Rod-Welch,) worked on the project “Telling Chinese American Librarians’ Stories” for the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA). We created two short videos about notable Chinese American librarians Dr. Lois Mai Chan and Dr. Tze-chung Li. Both videos can be found on the CALA YouTube channel for your viewing pleasure.
I worked on the video about Dr. Lois Mai Chan with Ray Pun. (You may recognize her name if you read “Cataloging and Classification” in library school.) The big challenge was how to work on a video about Dr. Chan, who lives in Kentucky, and collaborate with Ray, who lives in Shanghai. I got pretty good at figuring out what time it was in Shanghai!
We also received a lot of help from the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Kentucky (UK) where Dr. Chan is Professor Emeritus. UK found these amazing vintage photos of Dr. Chan and filmed several interviews for us. We took the footage and edited it in iMovie and pared all the material down to a 13-minute video.
This project gave me the opportunity to build my video editing skills, to learn about a venerable and accomplished figure in the Chinese American and library communities, and to connect with CALA. Right before we started the project, I was assigned to coordinate San Diego Central Library’s multimedia lab (the IDEA Lab,) and had just taken an iMovie workshop. The EL project gave me the opportunity to really work on my editing skills in iMovie and now I feel I can ‘graduate’ to either Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro.
Check out our final product on CALA’s YouTube channel.
For the convenience of our readers, we have embedded Team G’s video on Dr. Lois Mai Chan in this post. Please view the video above.
Monnee offers these pieces of advice to anyone interested in participating in the 2015 ALA Emerging Leaders cohort: “I would advise anyone thinking about applying to ensure that you have the time to devote to the program, because it does take a significant amount of time (at least in my opinion it did!). At times, it was reminiscent of library school (which I did online), so I’m glad that the two didn’t coincide. I would suggest that anyone currently in an online program apply later. That way, you won’t have another online project in addition to your current coursework.
When I was thinking of applying, I found this post from Abby the Librarian helpful (although I should have paid more attention to the fifth bullet point, addressing public, children’s, and teen librarians—Abby, you were right!). If you know someone that went through the program you can talk to, reach out to her/him. I didn’t know anyone but relied on what I read online, and I wish I had reached out to people to get a better sense of what the program entailed.
Despite the time involved, I’m still glad I did the EL program. I got to attend my first ALA Midwinter and Annual Conferences, meet library folk from around the country and world, and be part of a project that gives back to the Chinese American and library communities. I’m also so grateful to my colleagues and mentors at my library, who were all so supportive and excited for me, and proud that I was representing them to the greater library community.
Monnee, we are very happy and proud that you are among us in APALA!
Editing assistance by Jaena Rae Cabrera.