This spring, the Membership Committee undertook a project to intentionally recruit new ALSC members, specifically those who are paraprofessionals or students, and 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 two 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 – please check out our current Mentoring Program applications and a membership funding opportunity for those who identify as Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color!)
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 Cristina Castor and Lourdes Montes and Cristina Castor!
Each participant answered these questions:
- Introduce yourself!
Christina Castor (she/her/hers), Homewood Public Library, Birmingham, AL, Library Technician II, MLIS graduate (2018)
Lourdes Montes (she/her/hers), John L. Dart Library (Charleston County Public Library), Charleston, SC, Adult & Young Adult Generalist
- What drew you to the library field?
CC: Funny story: I found solace in libraries when I was a preschooler when I was so scared going into my first day of school. I was terrified of the teacher and my classmates. I basically skipped two weeks of preschool because I would just make a beeline towards the preschool library and hang out with the librarians, because they were not scary – they had ALL the books. I was always fond of reading. I’ve always loved books and the impact that they have in our lives. I enjoy sharing my love of them through recommendations, blogs, and storytelling; thus, starting off as a page at 19 in my local library gave me a deeper appreciation and understanding of how libraries work. As I advanced in the library world, I decided to pursue children’s librarianship and earned my Master’s degree in 2018. Working with various communities, especially children, skyrocketed my love for reading and working at libraries. Going to different schools and outreach opportunities around the community showed my passion for public service. I love getting people excited about libraries and the numerous activities and items that they offer. As a full-time children’s librarian in a community that I’m very proud to serve, I can truly say that it helped me grow and expand my knowledge in reader’s advisory, programming, and outreach. It is a wonderful job and being a librarian is what I’ve always wanted to do.
LM: I have loved reading since my teen years, and when I attended college for my Bachelor’s degree, I did my work-study at the local public library. It was my first ever exposure to the public library, and as an immigrant, I was fascinated because I never saw anything like it in the city I grew up in. My work at the library was gratifying, and when I graduated, I realized I wanted to serve in a public library because of the impact it has in the community.
- What is something inspiring about your current position or coursework that keeps you coming back day after day?
CC: As I mentioned in the previous question, I love sharing books with patrons and colleagues. I also love going to different schools and other outreach opportunities to spread the love and excitement about books and libraries. Planning my programs and brainstorming with coworkers always excites me because it gives me the opportunity to dive into my creative juices. After seeing it all come to life, it always gives me a satisfaction and pride that “Yes! Librarians are awesome, and we can do anything!” But all-in-all, it’s the community that keeps me coming back to work day after day.
LM: Building relationships with library patrons and seeing how our services are meaningful to them. It happens with patrons of all ages, and whether they enjoy our collection of books, DVDs, computers, or any other service we provide, the fact that people are grateful and happy about it is contagious, and I love how it feels. The library has a positive impact in the community, and it makes everything worth it.
- How do you hope to get involved in ALSC, and what do you hope to gain during your membership?
CC: Even though I have a busy work schedule and sometimes I miss the webinars and meetings, I would love to be involved in anything that gives voice to BIPOC librarians and authors/illustrators. I would love to also gain new connections and other librarian friends from all over the country on top of just learning other children’s librarians’ tips and tricks. I believe it’s also important to make connections with people in your field to help each other grow, whether it’s face-to-face or through Zoom.
LM: I love working with young adults, but I am also in love with children’s services. I realized this when I worked in the children’s department in my library system, and I would love to someday be able to serve in the spectrum of youth. My time working there also made me aware about the lack of early literacy practices in my culture, and as a person of color, I would love to be involved in anything that might help change that.
Thank you to Lourdes and Cristina for joining us and introducing themselves!
Allison Knight is a Branch Manager at MidPointe Library System in southwestern Ohio and a current co-chair of the ALSC Membership Committee.
This blog post relates to ALSC Core Competencies of: VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.