This spring, the Membership Committee undertook a project to intentionally recruit new ALSC members, specifically those who are paraprofessionals or students who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). In alignment with ALSC’s strategic objective of increasing the intentional recruitment and retention of a diverse membership while reducing barriers to participation, 10 BIPOC library students and 10 paraprofessionals/library support staff members were selected to receive one year ALA and ALSC memberships, along with opportunities for meaningful engagement including: regular virtual meetings with other recipients, activities and discussions, mentorship, shadowing committees, and more.
We, as the Membership Committee, know that for many potential members, there’s a lack of institutional support, financial or otherwise. For those new to the profession, they may not be aware of all the amazing opportunities our professional organization provides. We want to seek diverse voices and ensure they have the opportunity to become more involved with the organization and children’s services, and to provide a space to network and collaborate. (sidebar: if this sounds like your personal situation, or the situation of some of your colleagues – stay tuned for future funding and engagement opportunities!)
In this recurring blog series, we want to welcome these new members who are part of the first BIPOC New Member cohort and turn the mic over to them to learn more about who they are and what their interests are. I am pleased to share mini-interviews with Cyndee Perez and Sharday Williams-Miller!
Each participant answered these questions:
- Introduce yourself!
Cyndee Perez, Stockton San Joaquin Public Library (CA), currently attending University of North Texas for Library School, expected grad date Summer 2022.
Sharday Williams-Miller, Library Assistant, Willow Oaks Branch Library (VA)
- What drew you to the library field?
CP: Wanting to help people in the Spanish speaking community. I feel representation is extremely important. When kids see themselves represented, they are more likely to see help.
SW-M: I never knew how much I would fall in love with the library system. I previously worked in healthcare as an Administrative Secretary for several years, which was very demanding and stressful at times. Even though I got to help an immense amount of people, I knew that job just wasn’t the right fit for me. One day I came across a listing for the library. I never had experience working within the library system, but I knew I had a love of books and reaching out to my community, especially some of our smallest patrons. I applied for the position and even though I had never worked within the library, the Branch Manager took a chance and I haven’t looked back since. I started working within the library 6 years ago as a Library Clerk and I was quickly promoted to Library Assistant within the year, where I focus on storytime and children’s programming. I am currently transitioning into the role of Library Associate II within the Norfolk Public Library System.
- What is something inspiring about your current position or coursework that keeps you coming back day after day?
CP: Every day is a new day! You never know what someone is going to need or how a simple thing like a welcoming smile could make someone’s day.
SW-M: I truly love promoting the library as a community treasure, this is what makes my job so interesting. We have so much to offer – sometimes our community doesn’t know about the wealth of resources we have. One of my main goals is to ensure libraries remain inclusive to all types of people, especially children with disabilities. Whether you are physically or mentally disabled, the library is your friend. The library doesn’t require you to conform. You can be who you are, because our job is to ensure you live your best life. Plus seeing how happy kids are to be able to check out books for free and have free resources in general brightens my day!
- How do you hope to get involved in ALSC, and what do you hope to gain during your membership?
CP: I would love to serve on a diversity committee and get pointers on how to make sure our collection is sufficiently and fairly diverse as well as how to conduct a social justice storytime/book club.
SW-M: What I hope to gain from ALSC is more training and even mentoring within library services for those who are disabled. More and more individuals each year are being diagnosed with disabling conditions and hopefully by getting involved within the ALSC community we can bring this issue to the forefront, making sure our communities are able to strive and grow into lifelong learners. I also believe ALSC will help me in the development of programming for children with special needs.
Thank you to Cyndee and Sharday for joining us and introducing themselves!
Allison Knight is a Branch Manager at MidPointe Library System in southwestern Ohio.
This blog post relates to the ALSC Core Competency of VII. Professionalism and Professional Development