Rakisha Kearns-White is the 2022 recipient of Brooklyn Public Library’s Dr. Lucille C. Thomas Award for Excellence in Librarianship. She is Brooklyn Public Library’s sex positive, BTS-loving, period equity advocate Young Adult Librarian. She has worked for the past 17-years in the Youth Wing at the library’s Central Branch. Her focus over the past five years has been facilitating puberty and sexuality education for teens; advocating for the prevention of compassion fatigue in library workers; and making the public library a welcoming space for all. During 2022, Rakisha has been spreading her message of the importance and appropriateness of teaching Sexuality Education in public libraries.
Intersectionality and Trauma Informed Library Services
Using my varied experience in art/music, bookstores, and libraries in addition to training in Art therapy/Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I work to create a holistic experience for every patron to serve them as best as possible. This has been built off a theoretical orientation I developed for my former therapy work that I have translated into public library services. I worked for 5 years in Chicago with CPL and just started with the New York Public Library Tremont branch last month. It has been tested in rural and urban communities with proven success for accessibility and patron satisfaction despite no hard research done yet. Libraries saved my life as a child literally and metaphorically, so I strive to do the same for the communities I serve. I also really want to help this conversation move forward on how we can best serve the public, especially in an urban environment and to make sure that even if you don’t physically reflect your community you serve that your actions and behaviors should show your research, experience, and advocacy on the community’s behalf.
Leading Oral History and Community Archiving Projects with Library Colleagues and Friends Groups
Meral Agish & Jerrie Grantham
In this discussion, Queens Public Library colleagues Meral Agish and Jerrie Grantham will share ways they have activated internal and external networks to bring oral history interviews and digitized materials to the library’s archives. Meral, community coordinator of the Queens Memory Project, leads the Ambassadors Program, working closely with colleagues on local history projects driven by oral history interviewing. Through the program’s first two years, dozens of interviews have been recorded and archived. Jerrie, the library’s Volunteer Services Manager, leads the Friends Legacy Project, working closely with QPL’s Friends Groups to record the decades-long history of outreach, programming support and advocacy. After finding the Friends were under-represented in the library’s institutional records, Jerrie launched the project to help digitize printed materials that have been kept in people’s homes or in library file cabinets and to record oral history interviews with Friends who have been active for decades.
Engaging Students and Educators with Culturally Diverse and Responsive Titles Through Tailored Outreach
Tiffany James & Amber Certain
As school outreach specialists at The New York Public Library, our passion is connecting students, families, and educators with culturally diverse and responsive titles. With our creation of Vibrant Voices: A Booklist Celebrating Stories of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and its accompanying educator guide, and through thoughtful and engaging booktalks for students of all ages and robust webinars for K-12 educators, we are able to successfully promote titles that appeal to reluctant readers and encourage teachers to incorporate new titles into their instruction. Our work is about making meaningful connections with school communities and sparking joy for libraries while also recognizing the diverse city we serve and how to best meet those needs. We strive to rise to the challenge, and inspire school communities to diversify their reading lens and strengthen their communities, and we want to encourage and support other library staff in doing the same.
A Good Molé – the power of storytelling in Libraries
The library is the place where I practiced my English through books when I was younger. I grew up in the city of Newburgh – a place rich with stories. I have met so many different people who have granted me the privilege of listening to their stories. I’ve heard hundreds of narratives from middle school and high school students, parents and abuelitos, and they all remind me of a good molé. Why molé you ask? Molé is traditional, generational, and there are many ways to make it. Members of my community are just like that. They consist of three main ingredients that have helped them to survive in this country: resiliency, a belief in the power of education, and understanding of the importance of human connections.
Environmental Sustainability and Youth Empowerment: Passionate Programs that Spark and Motivate Us
Amy Rosa & Lee Smith
Amy Rosa and Lee Smith may have different job descriptions and neighborhoods they service; however, they share the same passion— a passion to create robust, vibrant, and enthusiastic programs for the community. This similar drive has even enabled them to launch a dynamic program series amid a pandemic. On their own, their programs are no less dynamic. They are THE spark. Lee has morphed his zeal for gardening into a litany of partnerships and environmental sustainability programs for adults. He spearheaded community composting efforts at the library, co-organized a series of virtual food justice workshops, and partners with numerous local environmental organizations to do programming both at the library and at the neighborhood community garden. Amy works with the youth in her community and aids with tools of empowerment that will foster them into becoming future leaders. She helps her interns create and run their own programs at the library focused on their own interests such as bicycle maintenance and repair, entrepreneurship, and an LGBTQ+ support group. Learn how this pair of librarians makes it look easy, absorb their enthusiasm, laugh with them and mostly importantly just listen to them talk!
Radical Library Supervision: Breaking Down Systems of Oppression and Building Systems of Care
Erin Hoopes & Mieka Moody
Join us for a conversation about how to be a compassionate, worker-focused branch manager in a large library system. We’ll consider the role of individual and collective action in combatting bureaucratic inertia in a workplace that has historically and systematically prioritized white/majority voices. We’ll discuss the power of radical storytelling and hands-on workshops focused on activating change through the lens of oppressed workers. We’ll envision ways to actively implement compassion, empathy and true care toward the storytellers/facilitators/workers and the communities that they are within. And finally, we’ll ask ourselves what systems we work within, what systems we work to dismantle, and how we can start imagining systems that are built with collective truth, care and justice for all.
“Do you want a fruit snack?” Building Connections with Students
Librarians are in a unique position to build connections with students, bypassing the fear of authority that is often present in minority students in urban areas. What a student may fear telling their professor, they might willingly tell a helpful librarian who offers them a pack of fruit snacks. My role as a librarian has gone beyond showing students where to locate books and how to properly cite a source. They’re looking for someone they trust that they can go to when they need help with a variety of things and an opportunity to connect. I would like to share different stories of students I have connected with and different tools I have used to build these open and positive relationships.
Applying Improvisational Skills in Public Librarianship
Jessica Espejel & Chelsea Condren
Improv is generally understood to be for comedians, but the concept of “Yes, And,” or accepting and building on new information, is a valuable tool for public library staff! Presenters Chelsea Condren and Jessica Espejel from the Early Literacy Department at The New York Public Library will facilitate improv-inspired activities to demonstrate how improvisation skills can be useful in many aspects of librarianship, from engaging patrons in programs to reader’s advisory.
“Uh-oh. People.”: Building Your Empathy Muscles
Emma Karin Eriksson
The complexities of working with people, from co-workers to patrons, is a large part of librarianship, yet it is rarely addressed in training or professional development. For better or worse, figuring out how to support patrons with complex needs or navigate interpersonal conflict in the workplace is largely learned through trial and error. As trauma-informed and empathetic service are centered in efforts to move toward people-focused libraries that serve diverse needs, how do we tangibly put these words into practice?
Legal Empowerment in Public Libraries
For many library workers, legal information can feel like an impenetrable subject that is too high-stakes to bring to our patrons. But the public library can be an ideal place for community members to safely and confidently learn ways to utilize and uphold their legal rights. Despite the abundance of law information that is publicly available, it is rendered practically inaccessible without a basic understanding of legal literacy. Let’s build on the public library commitment to support civic engagement and explore how to work with experts in the field of legal empowerment and participatory defense. This session will help participants understand: the library’s role; the difference between legal information resources and legal advice or interpretation; and how legal empowerment can promote community safety and collective liberation.
Passing the Pen to Teens
Teens are passionate, creative, empathetic, and incredibly smart. Intentionally centering their voice in library programs is a no-brainer and benefits both the teens and the institution. NYPL’s Teen Reading Ambassadors program gives teens the chance to be authors and creators through the production of a literary magazine for younger children, opportunities to write for NYPL’s blog and create for social media, and more. Join us to hear from teens about their experience creating for the library in the Teen Reading Ambassador program and why giving teens a platform through the library is so powerful!