In the spring of 2021, 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 BIPOC 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, the opportunity to shadow 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 the third part of 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, what their interests are, and how the BIPOC New Members group is benefiting them!
Before I turn the mic over to Mitzi Mack and Stephanie Huaman, we have an ask for YOU, the reader – the BIPOC New Members group does convene regular virtual meetups and we are always looking for seasoned BIPOC members who can share insight, career advice, or otherwise support our cohort as they move forward in their careers. If this is you, please reach out to the Membership Committee.
Now, Stephanie and Mitzi!
- Name, pronouns (if you wish), geographic location, and library or library school affiliation and title or expected grad date.
MM: Mitzi Mack, currently living in sunny Tampa, FL, as a Magnet Middle School Media Specialist. I received a MLIS from USF (University of South Florida) one year ago, which is how I originally became a member of the BIPOC group, as I learned about it from a college professor.
SH: Stephanie Huaman (she/her), Tulsa City-County Library, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Teen Library Associate, MLIS student (Expected 2025).
- What drew you to the library field?
MM: What drew me to the library field was the fact that as a child the library was my favorite place, and I discovered a book titled Tell Me A Mitzi by Lore Segal, and it renewed my faith in people. Students often said I have a dog named Mitzi; finding that book in the library made me realize my name was important. The book was about a little girl who told stories. I still own a copy today. After that, I volunteered in the library as an assistant through high school, college, and eventually later in life.
SH: Some of my fondest memories are of reading with my mom after her workday, whether it was books from the library or the cassette tape with a book to read along with. Those were my best moments, but I didn’t know librarianship could have been a career growing up. When I got my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, I knew I wanted to help people but didn’t know how. So I found part-time work as a bilingual customer service assistant for my library system and fell in love with the public library. I loved helping the families come in and find books, assisting with school projects, finding resources in the community, and just catching up with people. I was soon promoted to a bilingual children’s associate and then to a full-time youth associate at a different branch. I am a teen associate for my library system, but I still serve children and their families. I love the public library and youth services and assisting the Spanish-speaking population in my community. I love it so much I have decided to get my MLIS degree to become a librarian! I love that libraries bring people together and are a place that welcomes all.
- What is something inspiring about your current position or coursework that keeps you coming back day after day?
MM: Something inspiring about my current role that keeps me coming back is middle school student library humor, makerspaces, and the excitement of a student saying, “Have you ever read….?” Yes! That still happens, even in middle school! The right to choose what you read matters, and that is why I am a BIPOC librarian at a Magnet Middle School in East Tampa.
SH: The library branch I currently work for is in the neighborhood I grew up in, so I have a strong feeling of home. I love being creative and creating new programs for youths and their families to enjoy. One of my top moments was when I started leading programs as a library associate. I hosted our library system’s first Baby Prom. Parents, grandparents, aunties, and uncles with their kiddos dressed to their best, enjoying crafts with their friendly libraries, lots of dancing, and of course, BUBBLES! It reminds me of how libraries bring people together. I enjoy making programs that bring people together and give them a sense of community. That’s what keeps me going.
- How has the BIPOC New Member group helped you?
MM: The BIPOC New Member group has helped me in several ways. The BIPOC group has offered me the opportunity to view librarian life through a broader, more diverse spectrum as if I flipped The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule and envisioned the possibilities of BIPOC librarians having a greater chance of recognizing issues and providing creative solutions, thereby constructing a more inclusive library environment. BIPOC librarians make up about 20% of the population, between Asian, Latinx, African American, Indigenous peoples, etc., but within that community, I have gathered ideas, resources, strategies, etc. to advance civic engagement and foster more sustainable community practices accessible to all through the library. It is my hope to continue to find BIPOC mentors paving the path towards decolonizing the production and access to knowledge, so libraries represent a collective view of the world.
SH: I enjoyed being paired with a mentor who is also Latina, who has worked in children’s services before, and has lots of wisdom, experience, and guidance to share. If I ever had a question about work or ALSC, it was great to have someone to ask who I felt would listen and give guidance. She also encouraged me to attend the ALSC conference, and I had an opportunity to attend this past month. It was great to meet her in person and see how awesome she is.
Allison Knight is the Youth Services and Programming Director at Dayton Metro Library (OH) and the co-chair of the ALSC Membership Committee.
This blog post relates to ALSC Core Competencies of: VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.