ALA Midwinter

I attended ALA Midwinter in Denver, Colorado this February, which was a good experience, but when I got home from the trip, I felt worn out. I had a very busy fall. During the conference, I was wrapping up a book review, putting together a conference proposal, and working on my review documentation. As I sat in my room munching on a salad while writing, I realized this was not dissimilar to what I was doing at home most nights after work–still working, not spending time with others, not exercising, etc. I had been stretching myself too thinly and not taking care of myself. I took a step back from social media, turned down requests, canceled a few things, and used some sick days to start getting a little help. Making the right steps to get myself back on track have helped me feel a little better, and I plan to begin writing here a bit more now that I have some more energy. As a way to jump back in, I have a quick Midwinter overview.

This was my first time attending Midwinter, which I attended to co-lead ACRL’s Library Marketing and Outreach Interest Group (LMOIG) discussion with my co-convener Jen Park. It was lovely to meet her in person, and we actually ran into each other in the restroom on the way to the ACRL Leadership Council meeting. I’ve really enjoyed working with her!

LMOIG Leadership Team

After the Council meeting, we attended the Opening Keynote, given by #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Patrisse Kahn-Cullors and #1000blackgirlbooks founder Marley Dias. It was a humbling experience, and I was amazed to meet them both and receive signed copies of their books, one of which I gifted to a co-worker.

I only attended a few other meetings, but I enjoyed the Undergraduate Librarians Discussion Group (UGLi DG) meeting. I also experienced falling snow for the first time.

I visited the Denver Public Library, which has seven floors and is home to the world renowned Western History Collection.

Reforma held a fundraiser at Museo de las Americas; the museum had just opened a new exhibit on pachuco culture. (I somehow missed Junot Díaz appearance at the fundraiser, though! And this is a small gallery! I’m hoping he showed after I left, but I did leave at about 10 pm.)

Lowrider piñata

I think I had the most fun at the Denver Art Museum. I actually liked that it wasn’t that large, and I managed to see everything except for a few things in a just a couple of hours. I’m not one to write reviews, and I actually wrote one for their Facebook page. In case you don’t have a Facebook account, here is the text:

I really enjoyed my visit!

I was actually able to see most of the museum in a couple of hours, which was perfect as I am in Denver for a librarian conference full of meetings. As a librarian, I was very moved by Xiaoze Xie’s book censorship exhibit. I also thought the Stampede: Animals in Art exhibit was a lot of fun.

I happened to come by during the #heartsforarts campaign and spotted a few make-and-take craft carts and the participatory poster about what visitors treasure about the museum. I also saw an area that has soft seating and Spanish- and books available for young children. I really like that there are interactive activities for people of all ages to enjoy.

I love the integration of Spanish throughout the museum, as well–from the descriptions of items to the books available for children. I would love for my mom to come visit as her predominant language is Spanish.

I also took note that the museum is free for all children 18 and under. What a wonderful way to make art available to our youth!

From fun exhibits, interactive elements, and integration of both Spanish and English, I highly recommend this family-friendly art museum.

I generally don’t go on many excursions between conference sessions, but I’m glad I took the time to do a little exploring in Denver. In June I’ll be attending ALA Annual in New Orleans, which will be full of programs, including a co-sponsored program by the LMOIG and University Libraries Section Academic Outreach Committee, and, hopefully, a little sightseeing, too.

#WeNeedMixedBooks

Today is Father’s Day, and just last week, it was the 50th anniversary of the Loving decision. The anniversary gave me some time reflect on my mixed heritage. My dad is white and originally from Arkansas (he moved to CA in the 1970s), and my mom came to the U.S. from Mexico as a young adult. (My mom has been a citizen since the 1980s.) My parents got married in 1979. Here is one of their wedding photos.

Parents' wedding photo

Growing up, I didn’t know many mixed families, just mine, but that appears to be changing! It dawned on me recently that I have several friends raising children who are of mixed heritage. Here are some relevant articles on Loving, as well as the growing numbers of Americans who are mixed:

My sister and I started our school experience as Spanish-speakers; as the youngest, my brother didn’t have the same challenge. I didn’t realize we were “different” until elementary school, when kids didn’t believe some of my first cousins and I were related. Or worse, this woman who asked my mom if I was adopted. There is nothing wrong with adoption, but the question was to point out difference, and it was a terrible position to put her in, as well as for her child who was old enough to understand. I’ve seen and heard a lot from folks who are comfortable in addressing their fellow white person, as well as those who are comfortable speaking in Spanish as though I’m not there or can understand, not to mention the feeling that you don’t fit into neatly arranged categories. (This is just meant as a summary, and I’m also not going to get into my privilege as a very white and now graduate-educated Latina; I’m well aware.)

Books would have definitely helped with my identity issues, and, fortunately, times seem to be changing a bit. Prior to becoming an academic librarian, I worked as a bilingual (Spanish/English) library assistant in the children’s department of the Stanislaus County Library, and I about cried when I came across a picture called Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match. With the Loving anniversary, a friend of mine tagged all her friends in interracial marriages and partnerships, which prompted a very cool string of comments and photos. Our mutual friend made a special tribute about her marriage and family, and, from our exchange,  I found out that she had shown photos of my family to her daughter who is also half-Latina and half-white. I mentioned the Marisol McDonald book, and I let my friend know I would do a search for some more kids’ books. Although there is a disparity in representing children from a variety of backgrounds in children’s books in general (see the #weneediversebooks campaign), The Washington Post‘s “Where Are All the Interracial Children’s Books? points out that there aren’t many picture books that feature mixed children. I started doing some searching for pictures books about mixed families and children, and I was surprised to find a small but growing body of books (note that the lists below often share titles).

Now, this is somewhat of a side note, but I think Mixed Remixed, which is “a film, book & performance festival celebrating stories of the mixed-race and multiracial experience,” is so interesting! I had never heard of it before. I took a peek at some resources, I found this really cool list of TED Talks linked on the Mixed Remixed website, “6 TED Talks, By, For, and About Biracial and Mixed-Race Folks.”

I’m also glad to have found an online community of librarians who identify as POC that I can reach out to thanks to a librarian friend. Some members of the group mentioned that I ought to listen to The Mash-Up Americans podcast and the  Other: Mixed Race in America podcast. Code Switch also recently had an episode called A Prescription for ‘Racial Imposter Syndrome,'” which another librarian mentioned that she really identified with as a mixed person who grew up with her white parent. It has been great to hear about the multicultural families some of these librarians are raising, as well.

Spanish, Salsa, and Small Towns

I live and work in different counties, and I find it difficult to stay connected to the community where I live and the community where I work, *Los Banos. As the community college librarian in LB, I do feel guilty, but my husband and I bought a great house in a great neighborhood four months before I was offered a full-time position in our hometown. I do what I can in LB outside of work, mostly with the public library.

This spring, the woman who volunteered for Spanish story time had many health issues and decided to take a break. All the story time programs are volunteer-run, which is very different from the early literacy skills-based training I received during my first regular part-time library job as a bilingual Spanish/English library assistant in the children’s department of the Stanislaus County Library. In May, I got together with the supervisory library assistant at the local branch of the Merced County Library and some Friends of the Los Banos Library members to talk about starting a bilingual Spanish/English program on Saturdays. I volunteered to do two bilingual programs this summer.

I did the first program in mid-June, and it had been two years since I had last done a story time program. It wasn’t full-blown with music and dances, but I did incorporate sitting and standing fingerplays. It was a magical experience. The supervisor said it also looked like I was really enjoying it, and I really was all smiles. Since Merced County Library’s summer reading program is music-inspired this year, I focused on music, song, and dance. The supervisor started the program with a reading of Farmer Joe and the Music Show. I picked up with Salsa, Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure, and De Colores. I chose these because they support diversity, specifically showing people of color; introduce kids to new music styles they might not have heard before (jazz and salsa); and Salsa and De Colores are both bilingual, so I could decide which language to read in, etc.

In my planning I completely forgot to choose a clip of salsa music, but thanks to smartphones, it was pretty easy to pull up music on YouTube. I also showed a clip of salsa dancing courtesy of one of those dancing shows because, you know, if it’s on TV, it’s got to have some kind of standard.  After I read De Colores in Spanish, I also looked up José-Luis Orozco singing “De Colores,” and we all sang as I re-read (sang) the book along to the video of Orozco. Now the big secret about me is that I do enjoy singing, but I clamp down when it comes to singing in public. But story time is just different. I remember being really unsure when I was asked to apply for the bilingual story time position at one of my former employers, but doing story time really helped me break out of my shyness a little more.

For fingerplays, we did Pulgarcito (Where is Thumbkin?), the Bee Hive, and Ábranlas, Ciérrenlas (Open, Shut Them). I think the parents were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t just all reading and sitting. I also mentioned that singing helps kids hear different sounds, and that this will help them when it’s time for them to learn how to read. (Phonological awareness–I’m legit, people.)

I also brought in a book of children’s poetry I have used before, but I ended up not using it. If you’re a bilingual children’s librarian or library assistant, parent, or teacher, you  might want to check out Alma Flor Ada’s Todo es Canción. You’ll be sure to find something no matter what theme, and the poems are all short and sweet.

While I was there, I also saw the library sub for the college library, Willie, who is one of my favorite people. She has so much kindness and also keeps it real. She also takes classes at the college. I took her to lunch at Wendy’s, and all the people working were our college students. That’s what it’s like to work in a smaller town.

After dropping Willie off back at the public library, I went downtown to Sweet as Cake Bakery to buy cupcakes for a cousin who just had a baby a few weeks earlier and checked out a home interior store, The Country Duck. The store had donated to the public library’s Small Works of Art Sale fundraiser in October (I won that gift basket, and I  never win stuff), and they also had a booth out at LB’s Tomato Festival that my husband and I went to earlier that same month.

I left LB in such a good mood, I’m not even kidding. Volunteering gives me my children’s library services fix and a chance to strengthen my relationship to the town.

If you commute to work, how do you connect to your commuter community?

*It’s really Los Baños, but because the town doesn’t have the tilde listed on its government documentation, we aren’t allowed to write it as it’s pronounced per the college board. It’s a pretty dicey issue in the community, and while I’m not in agreement, I did change all of the college library information and documentation to reflect the anglicized version. And, yeah, I guess we shouldn’t be “changing” the name if its officially “something else.” With racial and ethnic tension all over the news in our country, this banning of the tilde just doesn’t sit well with me.