As this is barely my second year as a teacher librarian and I am just halfway through my MLIS program, I have limited experience with the various library professional organizations. In fact, I only joined APALA within the past few months. Furthermore, it's not only new for me to participate in library professional organizations, I am also not accustomed to being involved with culture-centric groups in general. When I was in high school and college, I never felt like I would fit in with the Asian student clubs and so I never joined them.
In retrospect, some of my early reservations were probably due to my need to prove my "Americanness." For instance, I have vivid memories from my childhood of speaking loudly on purpose so that people would hear that I did not have an accent, as if that were somehow proof of my worthiness. In contrast, my shame made me mute on other occasions. I can still picture sitting in my junior high history class learning about World War II, when a student turned to me and asked, "So, why'd you bomb us?" I remember feeling caught off guard and embarrassed, and yet I didn't say a word in response.
Through the years, I have more fully embraced various aspects of my identity, including my "Asianness." I have come to use to my voice with greater ease and intention, and as I gain more life experience, I feel increasing motivation to participate more actively as a community member of multiple communities, which brings me back to showing up at today's meeting. The purpose of the town hall was to gather input regarding APALA's current strategic plan. I mentioned that I am a new member and so I may not have much to add, but the moderators encouraged me to simply speak from my own experience in terms of what I hope to gain from the organization. My answer really ties into several streams of thought.
|"Public K-12 School State-Certified Library |
Media Specialists by Characteristic, 2009-10"
Source: ALA's Diversity Counts
Next, I am currently working at a high school with few Asian Pacific Islander students and staff members. Looking at 2014-15 statistics, Asian, Filipino, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students combined accounted for only 3.7% of the total enrollment. Holding onto this figure, I reflect upon last year's school multicultural fair. After the event, several students from the Asian American Club reached out to me even though we had never spoken previously. They shared at length about having felt tokenized by the experience and we formed an immediate connection. Since we did not have an existing relationship, I can't help but think that part of the reason they felt safe approaching me is because I am Asian like them. This event resonated with me powerfully, encouraging me to embrace my responsibility to show up as a role model and leader for these young people and others. Needless to say, I am glad to see how APALA's drafted strategic plan includes an emphasis on leadership.
|My grandma with my kids|
As I continue to test out different professional organizations, I am not sure how I will end up dividing my time and energy over time, but I am happy to report that my initial introduction to APALA has been a positive one. And, as I anticipate completing my MLIS next year, I believe that these organizations will only assume an ever-growing role in my ongoing professional learning.
*NOTE: APALA is also currently polling and discussing preferred terminology.