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IAmRUSA Interviewee for the Week of January 20th is
Ask her a question!
My name is Diana M. Rojas and I am a recent graduate of the University of South Florida. My passion for libraries began over 13 years ago when I worked as a student employee in a public library. Throughout the years, I have held various positions, such as: library associate, circulation supervisor and currently as a Librarian in the Reference Department.
I am a huge proponent of creating a more diverse field of librarianship by attracting individuals from underrepresented groups. I believe it is essential as our communities continue to grow more culturally diverse.
Aside from working as a Librarian, I also work for Ask a Librarian, as their bilingual virtual reference provider. This has been a great opportunity to be able to assist individuals with their reference questions by text, chat or email in either English or Spanish. I absolutely love it!
On my spare time, you can find me cheering on my son at his baseball/football games, taking my daughter to the park, reading a book (in print or on my iPad) and trying to get my 10,000 steps in on my FitBit Flex.
Please feel free to ask me any questions!
Diana M. Rojas
2012 Spectrum Scholar
Nice to meet you! I would be interested in learning what you think some of the biggest challenges facing public libraries are.
Thank you for my very first question.
One of the biggest challenges that public libraries face today is the public’s misconception of who we are and what we offer. Libraries are often perceived to be old warehouses of books and places where librarians are constantly shushing their patrons. In reality, we are far more than just books and we do less shushing than others would like to believe. While we do offer books, it is just a small fraction of what we can offer to the public. We are cultural centers that provide individuals with the resources they can use to improve their lives. From books to computers to lifelong learning programs, libraries are providing patrons with access to information in a variety of formats. I believe that we can change this misconception by ensuring that our staff is technological savvy and able to assist patrons with their technological needs. Providing excellent customer service is going to be crucial in attracting patrons to the library. Creating partnerships with local organizations and schools will also be the key to introducing individuals to the library and all the services that we have to offer.
Another challenge that public libraries face is serving culturally diverse populations without having a culturally diverse staff. For many years now, library schools across the country have seen low enrollment rates by students from underrepresented groups. Although there have been increased efforts to diversify the field of librarianship, there is still such a small percentage of underrepresented groups in the field. I view this as a challenge because there are many patrons who feel too intimidated to use the library. Oftentimes, they are unsure if they will be able to communicate their needs to library staff in their native language. As our population continues to grow culturally diverse, libraries will need to focus on how to attract individuals from underrepresented groups into the workforce.
What do you consider to have been the most successful program at your library?
M. Kathleen Kern
Thank you for your question.
I can honestly say that I am having a hard time coming up with THE most successful program at our library. We offer such a great variety of programs that it seems wrong not to include them all! However, I would have to say that our 2013 Hispanic Heritage Month programs were quite a success. We hosted over twenty programs (some didn’t make it on the flyer) throughout the library system and attendance was high at each event. Our programs appealed to all the senses. We had musical performances, special movie presentations, food demonstrations and so much more. Aside from the attendance statistics, what I found to be a true measure of success was seeing individuals from different cultural backgrounds come out and learn about the Hispanic culture with their families. During our healthy Hispanic food demonstration, there were African American, American and Hispanic families learning how to cook Hispanic foods together. It was so nice to see everyone interact and enjoy this program, despite their cultural differences. Although it took months of preparation, the positive feedback from all of our patrons made it all worth it!
Hi Diana! Do you have any tips for others on how to attract individuals from underrepresented groups? Any best practices/examples that you use?
Thanks and GO BULLS! :-)
I have found that most individuals from underrepresented groups have misconceptions about libraries and the services that they offer. It is quite common for them to believe that the services available at the library are not free. Therefore, one of my main goals is to always make sure they understand that the services/programs/resources that the library provides are free of charge.
In terms of how to attract individuals from underrepresented groups, I would say that outreach is very important. If they are not aware of the services that we can provide, then what will attract them to the library? Creating awareness of the library’s services can be achieved by going to local supermarkets and restaurants to provide flyers of upcoming programs. Reaching out to adult education centers that provide ESOL classes and offering presentations of library services is also a good idea. Another important thing is to locate local newspapers (in their native language) and send them information about upcoming computer classes and/or programs. At our library, we have a monthly newsletter that is sent out to our media contacts and community contacts to help spread the word about our awesome programs.
We also like to promote our upcoming programs at the Reference desk by using word-of-mouth marketing. Sometimes patrons can get bogged down by so many flyers, newsletters, etc. So, when they visit the desk, I always finish the conversation by mentioning some upcoming programs or resources that may be useful to them. Before you know it, your patrons will be promoting all the great resources that your library has to offer.
As a final point, I would like to mention the importance of identifying those staff members who speak a foreign language. We use language buttons to help identify our Spanish, Creole and Creole-French speakers. These buttons have been very useful in helping patrons identify who can assist them in their native language.
Hope that helps!