I was a YALSA Spectrum Scholar in 2009. I can’t believe that was 6 years ago! When I was considering librarianship as a profession, I was thrilled that ALA had a program like the Spectrum Scholarship. It signaled very clearly that racial and ethnic diversity within the profession was a core value of ALA. In other words, I felt like the profession was saying to me, “Welcome. You have a place here.” It’s incredible what an award like the Spectrum Scholarship can do for one’s pride and confidence – particularly for a young adult woman of color. On my mother’s side, I’m a 3rd generation Mexican American/Chicana and on my father’s side, I’m a 1st generation Filipino American. No one in my immediate family has attended graduate school.
When I received news of my YALSA Spectrum Scholarship, I was over the moon! It validated my choice to become a librarian and I’ve never regretted the decision. As a result of the scholarship, I was able to financially afford to attend and complete my MLIS program while also living in my very expensive hometown of San Francisco, CA. I was able to take part-time jobs that were diverse and interesting: First, at an urban high school serving low-income teens and then at a non-profit that served people with disabilities with workforce development. Because of the support of Spectrum, I had the freedom to grow my professional experience in library settings without the burden of worrying about only choosing a job based on pay alone. Even though I entered library school without any library school experience, Spectrum indirectly helped me leave library school with fresh work experience that I could speak about in job interviews.
For the last four years, I’ve been a youth-serving librarian at San Francisco Public Library. My driving motivation for becoming a librarian has always been to serve home communities of immigrant working class people of color. In applying to library school, I wrote about my desire for patrons from my home communities to see a reflection of themselves on the other side of the reference desk. Now, four years into the profession, I’m so proud that I can say that I have realized that vision. As a native Spanish speaker, I soon found out just how valuable of a resource I was the Latino/a patrons in the neighborhood surrounding my branch library. Word of mouth spreads fast! Soon after starting at my first library, I was helping Spanish-speaking teens with reader’s advisory, teaching their parents how to use e-books, and instructing their cousins how to access storytime schedules at the library.
The Spectrum Scholarship helps ensure that more and more communities of color find help in their neighborhoods that meet their distinct needs. This #GivingTuesday, please consider giving to this incredible program!
Cristina Mitra is Family Engagement Coordinator at the San Francisco Public Library.