Top Ten

Top Ten lists are a lot of fun. Here are some excellent Top Ten lists of youth literature depicting American Indian content by my good friend Debbie Reese:

In case this is the first time you’ve heard about Debbie Reese and her blog, make sure you check out the rest of American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL). It’s a tremendous resource for readers, parents, educators, librarians, children… well, everyone.

Myths About the Information Age

Article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed regarding “5 Myths About the Information Age.” Summary list:

  1. “The book is dead.”
  2. “We have entered the Information Age.”
  3. “All information is now available online.”
  4. “Libraries are obsolete.”
  5. “The future is digital.”
#4 is worth quoting in full:
Everywhere in the country librarians report that they have never had so many patrons. At Harvard, our reading rooms are full. The 85 branch libraries of the New York Public Library system are crammed with people. The libraries supply books, videos, and other materi al as always, but they also are fulfilling new functions: access to information for small businesses, help with homework and afterschool activities for children, and employment information for job seekers (the disappearance of want ads in printed newspapers makes the library’s online services crucial for the unemployed). Librarians are responding to the needs of their patrons in many new ways, notably by guiding them through the wilderness of cyberspace to relevant and reliable digital material. Libraries never were warehouses of books. While continuing to provide books in the future, they will function as nerve centers for communicating digitized information at the neighborhood level as well as on college campuses. (emphasis mine)
The entire article is short, quick, to the point, and worth reading: http://chronicle.com/article/5-Myths-About-the-Information/127105/

National Library Week

It’s National Library Week! Here are some websites/articles regarding the awesomeness of libraries:

And my favorite…

  • ALA REPORT: The State of America’s Libraries 2011
    • http://ala.org/ala/newspresscenter/mediapresscenter/americaslibraries2011/index.cfm
    • Some highlights, based on a telephone survey with 1,012 adults (January 2011):
      • The library-use figures that emerged from the poll were up several percentage points from a year earlier, testament both to Americans’ entrepreneurial spirit and libraries’ role in nourishing that spirit.
      • Sixty-five percent of those polled said they had visited the library in the past year.
      • College graduates and those with a household income of more than $100,000 were also well represented among card holders, according to the survey
      • Americans value the democratic nature of libraries as places that level the playing field for all Americans in the provision of materials free of charge.
      • Thirty-one percent of adults –– and 38 percent of senior citizens –– rank the library at the top of their list of tax-supported services.
      • The library’s most highly valued services pertain to the provision of free information and programs that promote education and lifelong learning.
      • Almost all Americans (93 percent) believe that it is important that library services are free.
  • The whole report is fascinating, inspiring, and disheartening (budget cuts… sigh). If you have time, read it all. If not, at least read the executive summary.

The Modern Day Advantage, Part II

A couple days ago someone posed a question to me regarding the “modern day advantage of a librarian” in the digital age. I wrote a blog entry to share my answer, but there’s so much more to say. Here are a few more thoughts…

Librarians defend intellectual freedom. There are countless instances where librarians have defended our right to read questionable or controversial materials. Going back to JS Mill’s “Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion,” suppressing an opinion or information resource is not conducive to creating an informed public. That’s why, despite someone’s personal convictions or beliefs, all information must be shared and available. The American Library Association has an Office of Intellectual Freedom that exists to “educate librarians and the general public about the nature and importance of intellectual freedom in libraries” (website). Librarians stand behind the Library Bill of Rights, which states that “all libraries are forums for information and ideas.” The BoR basically outlines our beliefs about how people should have unrestricted access to materials. Even for young people, it is not the librarian’s job to prohibit or promote access, but the parents’. Robots cannot do this. The internet cannot do this. But librarians can. When I consider the evolution of children’s and young adult literature – the “safe” stories that used to exist for children, and their gradual evolution from stories such as Go Ask Alice to today’s Speak and Crack and Barefoot Gen and other books that depict horrific but real tragedies – I can’t help also thinking about the people who’ve tried to censor them, and the librarians who’ve fought for these stories to stay on the shelves. Young people don’t live in a bubble; their stories should reflect this.

Librarians educate. In both formal and informal ways, librarians are educators. They provide classes on many different topics, ranging from how to use computers to how to file taxes to how to do genealogy searches. A recent article in The Chronicle reports that academic librarians “put increasing value on their role in support of student learning.” Librarians are not mere custodians (well, not “mere,” – they do SO MUCH custodial work), they are also educators. According to the article, which is based on a survey, they “also put more emphasis on the library’s importance as a gateway to information.” Access to information. Librarians provide and facilitate and promote access because…

Librarians advocate. They advocate for intellectual freedom, for access to information and ideas and resources, they advocate for funding, for the right to read, for programming, for everything that helps build healthy and informed communities. And these things matter because if libraries don’t provide them, who will?

Tonight, my LIS 7530 Internet Fundamentals and Design class discussed equity as it relates to internet access. One example they shared was that a community that is stuck in the cycle of poverty is likely to have a higher percentage of disabilities; but this itself turns into a cycle of disabilities because that community is less likely to have access to the health information resources to learn more about self-care, options, etc. and and the health care necessary for diagnosis, treatment, recovery etc. It’s a vicious cycle, literally a life and death issue. Librarians can be powerful advocates in this regard. A health services or medical librarian can provide appropriate resources, do programming informing communities of healthy living habits etc., and act as a portal to other health resources, information centers, clinics, hospitals, etc. These things might also be available online, but how is a poorer community that doesn’t have adequate computer and internet access going to go online?

Public libraries are not just for the poor and disenfranchised and under educated. I consider myself middle class and well educated, and I go to our downtown public library pretty much every 2 weeks to check out books, attend programs and events, and just read. The assistant program director of my MLIS program has been visiting all our local St. Paul public libraries over the past couple of months. Now she’s ready to hit all the Minneapolis libraries. This morning I overheard her telling our dean about the wonderful and helpful assistance provided by all the librarians she encountered. It was heartening to hear that locally our librarians are providing wonderful service with good attitudes, despite the cuts in funding, the lack of faith in the profession, the overloaded shifts.

In 2010, Library Journal reported the dismal outlook for MLIS graduates. Job seekers said, “Fieldwork and internships aided in putting classroom learning into practice and exposed grads to potential employers,” suggesting that the actual work experience and preparation acquired by potential employees was crucial to their attainment of a job. This means that libraries are incredibly selective about who they hire, not only because job openings are down while applications are up, but also because the work librarians do is tremendously important, so much so that they want their future employees to bring both theory and practice into their new jobs.

Another side of the same coin – interestingly, only a year earlier in 2009, US News & World Report ranked “librarian” as one of the best careers. The article said “Librarianship is an underrated career,” and then sort of described some of the idyllic aspects of the job, but also more realistically pointed out, “More and more of today’s librarians must be clever interrogators, helping the patron to reframe their question more usefully. Librarians then become high-tech information sleuths, helping patrons plumb the oceans of information available in books and digital records, often starting with a clever Google search but frequently going well beyond.”

Leigh Estabrook, former dean of the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science, says “Libraries are socialist institutions in capitalist societies.” How true. And therein lies the conflict: the capitalists don’t want to fund the socialist institutions. But these socialist institutions are a vital part of all our communities.

Racial Fatigue

I’m a strong believer that discriminatory, hurtful, racialized acts of violence (whether physical or psychological) demand a justifiably angry response. What I don’t believe, however, is that we have the right to act out our angry response to violence with violence. That is debasing and excessive, not restitutive, and leads to our legitimate voices being delegitimized.

Today I woke up to a Daily Bruin article stating that Ms. Wallace is receiving death threats in response to her anti-Asian tirade. While what she did was incredibly stupid, our responses should not match her level of idiocy. We should respond out of justified anger, but not out of hysteria.

I think the police should protect her and the school should let her reschedule her finals. There are likely people out there who are stupid enough to do stupid things if she shows her face on campus.

HOWEVER. I wonder if her video, as it elicited a strong response from Asian Americans, elicited a response from fellow, like-minded non-Asian students? Is it unsafe for Asian Americans to study at Powell Library? Personally, I would feel unsafe entering a space where white students can condemn Asian students, whatever their actions. I was overwhelmed by the burden of racial fatigue I suffered yesterday. I’m sure others, especially UCLA Asian American students, felt it too. Will the students who are negatively affected by this video and the ensuing discussions also get to reschedule their finals? Will I get to reschedule all the work hours I lost yesterday?

You might argue that we had a choice whether to study or work or be involved; however, this kind of racist behavior demands a response. Our silence would have condoned her behavior, perpetuated the passive Asian stereotype, and then it would have happened again. I’m actually very proud of my fellow Asian Americans – alumni, students, other concerned community members, even USC alum – for standing up in droves. We choose to speak. We choose social justice. We choose to stand up for the right for Asian Americans to study in a safe campus. And we demand that the administration listen and respond.

My Email to UCLA Chancellors

Please do not repost without my permission.

  • Chancellor Gene Block (chancellor@ucla.edu)
  • Vice Chancellor Robert Naples (rnaples@saonet.ucla.edu)

I emailed the following to Chancellor Block and Vice Chancellor Naples at 3P on Monday, March 14:

Dear Chancellor Gene Block and Vice Chancellor Robert Naples,

I am a two-time graduate of UCLA. I graduated with my BA in History and Asian American Studies in 2002 and earned my MA in Asian American Studies in 2004. I went on to earn my PhD and MS in Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois in 2009, and am now an assistant professor at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN, where I teach future librarians and advise the undergraduate Asian Women’s Association. The education I earned at UCLA was meaningful and served me well for my future endeavors. I am proud to be a UCLA alum.

However, I am incredibly upset at the recent video posted by current UCLA student Alexandra Wallace. Her hateful speech against Asian American students indicates that her education is failing her; if UCLA was providing Ms. Wallace with an education that “[fosters] open-mindedness, understanding, compassion and inclusiveness among individuals and groups,” then she would not have thought these thoughts and posted them so publicly on FB and YouTube. The way she states “our university” implies that she believes UCLA is a white institution and that Asians are perpetual foreigners undeserving of such an education. She also makes Asian Americans sound weak when she says that our parents have not taught us to “fend for [ourselves],” which perpetuates stereotypes that Asian Americans do not have any agency. Having survived not one but two graduate programs and snagged a job in a down economy, I’d say my parents taught me well how to fend for myself. Additionally, in light of anti-immigration legislation, the crusade against ethnic studies across the country, and ongoing hate-crimes against Asian Americans, it is imperative that educational institutions such as UCLA, home to one of the largest and highest ranked Asian American Studies programs in the nation, take a stand against such behaviors.

Again, I quote to you UCLA’s campus values: “We do not tolerate acts of discrimination, harassment, profiling or other harm to individuals on the basis of expression of race, color, ethnicity…”

Ms. Wallace’s video is an act of discrimination and harassment, an instance of profiling, and is harmful not only to Asian Americans but also to other students. If UCLA does not respond to this, your silence implies that you condone her behavior. As I’m sure you know, this tirade has sparked an enormous uproar from not only the UCLA APA community, but beyond. We implore you to take action.

With all due respect,

Sarah Park
UCLA BA History & Asian American Studies class of 2002
UCLA MA Asian American Studies class of 2004


Sarah Park, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of LIS
St. Catherine University
spark@stkate.edu
http://sarahpark.com

“Asians in the Library”

UCLA Asian Pacific Coalition students respond to the incredibly racist and offensive video (now taken down) posted by UCLA student Alexandra Wallace. The APC  response is well articulated, thoughtful, and assertive – well worth reading. Here’s an excerpt:

On Sunday, March 13th, an alarming video was re-posted on You Tube from the Facebook account of a UCLA student. The video, titled “Asians in the Library”, chronicled the student’s racist tirade against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities at UCLA. Within hours, the video re-posted on various forms of social media, where members of the community viewed and responded to the video. The resulting reaction reveals an alarmingly dangerous campus climate and an underlying current of racism and prejudice still vibrantly alive in America. The Asian Pacific Coalition and API communities at UCLA would like to issue the following response:

In her public comment to the UCLA community, Alexandra Wallace expressed her concern about the “hordes of Asian people that UCLA accepts into our school every year.”  On a campus that boasts a student population of 40% Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities (API), Wallace’s comments are both insensitive and revelatory of the flawed mainstream perception of the API community.  Many view API’s as a uniform aggregate, thereby failing to acknowledge the diversity within the API community and perpetuating the view of API’s as the model minority and the foreign “they” who unfairly get accepted into “our” school.  Wallace perpetuates the “us” versus “them” rhetoric in her comments, thereby expressing distaste in API’s and an even greater anxiety that “foreigners” are taking over UCLA.

….

Hence, as a community, we demand the following:

1) We call for a public apology from Alexandra Wallace. Her words and actions are not in line with the UCLA Student Code of Conduct, which states:

“The University strives to create an environment that fosters the values of mutual respect and tolerance and is free from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sex, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, and other personal characteristics.”[2]

2) We call for UCLA to take the appropriate disciplinary measures befitting of Wallace’s violation against the UCLA Student Code of Conduct  and UCLA’s Principle of Community, which states:

“We do not tolerate acts of discrimination, harassment, profiling or other harm to individuals on the basis of expression of race, color, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, religious beliefs, political preference, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship, or national origin among other personal characteristics. Such acts are in violation of UCLA’s Principles of Community and subject to sanctions according to campus policies governing the conduct of students, staff and faculty.” [3]

3) We call for UCLA to issue a statement addressing this incident.  UCLA must demonstrate its commitment to a culture of diversity, respect, tolerance, and acceptance for all communities by standing against such acts.

4) We call for the UCLA Academic Senate to pass a requirement in the general education curriculum grounded in the UCLA Principles of Community.

Some Asian Americans created a remix video overlaying Ms. Wallace’s tirade with orientalist sound effects and lyrics. I’m not going to lie; it’s pretty funny.

Shifting gears: as someone who 1) graduated from UCLA with both a BA and MA in Asian American Studies 2) was involved in UCLA Asian American student life 3) worked at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and 4) am now a professor of Library and Information Science, I have the following to say:

  1. This tirade is race-based hate speech. There’s no rationalizing or explaining it away. It’s hateful.
  2. Students who exhibit such race-based hate speech are an embarrassment to UCLA and should be duly punished for their irresponsible actions.
  3. UCLA must respond. The situation – and we – demand it.
  4. Racialized hate speech perpetuates hateful behaviors. White lynchers spoke about hating black people before lynching. Hitler and his soldiers spoke about concentration camps before they built them. I’m not suggesting that Ms. Wallace is going to go physically hurt Asian Americans, but her hateful speech condones hatred towards a particular group of students, and people act out their hate in different ways.
  5. That Ms. Wallace even thought about this, recorded and then posted her YouTube video indicates a major fail on the part of our education system. Without inclusive, social justice curriculum in Pre-K through 12th grade, and mandatory ethnic and cultural studies courses in high school and college, these kinds of behaviors will persist. We’re not a post-race society just because we have a half black president. We’re obviously not there yet. Make ethnic studies mandatory.
  6. There’s nothing “American” about good manners. See The Ugly American.
  7. It really grieves me that Ms. Wallace located her tirade in the space of the library. I see it as my moral responsibility to make sure that libraries are safe spaces for everyone – white, black, Asian, differently abled, sexually whatever.  Librarians have the right to remove patrons whose words and behaviors pose a threat or are a nuisance to other patrons, whether because they’re talking too loudly on their phones or spewing hateful speech.