This article, by Jesus A. Castañeda, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on April 17, 2022.
My first visit to a public library took place in the spring of 2002 as an eighth-grader in my hometown of Los Angeles, California. Initially intended to be a one-time visit to the Los Angeles Central Library to pick up books, the trip ended up becoming bi-weekly Sunday visits over the next four years. I discovered a world of knowledge in the Central Library's thousands of books, which transported me to different worlds with every history, geography, or travel guide I read.
As teenagers growing up in South Central Los Angeles, my sister and I would eagerly look forward to spending 4 to 5 hours every other Sunday at the Central Library looking through the comic books, magazines, and Lonely Planet guidebooks while planning imaginary itineraries that would later become a reality. Little did we know that these library visits would eventually prepare us for bigger and better things in life!
As a current MLIS graduate student at the University of Arizona and Knowledge River Scholar, I am a Graduate Assistant with Pima County Public Library where I have had the opportunity to work at several branches serving different populations. In the same way that the librarians at LA's Central Library Teen'Scape section made a difference in my sister's life and my own, I know I want to make a difference in the lives of the people who visit our libraries.
The Knowledge River Program mission strongly correlates with my long-term goals of working with communities where access to libraries and their resources are limited. Focusing on educating professionals who are aware of and committed to the information needs of BIPOC communities, Knowledge River fosters an understanding of library and information issues from the perspective of BIPOC and advocates for cultural awareness and respect in information services to these communities.
As a Graduate Assistant at both Santa Rosa and Quincie Douglas Libraries, I have come in contact with some challenges that our patrons may face when visiting our libraries. As a bilingual, first-generation Mexican-American aspirant to become a public librarian, I would like to advocate for more easily accessible information and resources within our public libraries to make them more welcoming for everyone. I strongly believe that librarians are intermediaries to the information, knowledge, and resources our libraries hold.
Helping patrons visit the library and creating awareness of the many resources and programs our libraries have to offer brings me a lot of joy. Librarians play a vital role as connectors who link people to knowledge by organizing materials and assisting those who come to search for knowledge.
Educating, serving my community, making library resources more readily accessible, and performing outreach work have been the main forces behind my interest in pursuing a career as a librarian in a public setting. While Los Angeles, CA might be my hometown, Tucson is the place I now call home and where I would like to continue working towards making libraries more equitable, diverse, and inclusive spaces.
As I approach the end of my graduate school journey, I would like to continue to put into practice the training and skills I have gained as a Knowledge River Scholar. By performing outreach within the communities I aim to serve, I am working to increase awareness about the resources libraries offer and how they can also be a source of empowerment. As libraries continue to evolve, I believe it is important for librarians to become aware of our roles within diverse communities and to understand their needs and aspirations.
Jesus A. Castañeda is a Graduate Assistant in the Library’s Community Engagement Office, a position he has held since August 2020. He has contributed posts to the Library’s blog, including one about diversity in the Latinx community and another about the origin of Las posadas.