Representation Matters


By: Veronica Ramirez, MLIS Student, San Jose State University

When I was 12 years old, my family relocated from a small town in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico to Mountain View, California. I was placed in ESL classes and experienced a challenging time trying to learn a new language. My teacher suggested that my mother take me to the local public library so that I could check out books and practice reading in English. Coming from a small town in rural Mexico, this was my first time going to a public library. My favorite books to check out were the ones with animals as protagonists such as A Cricket in Times Square.

library card

As a child, I did not pay close attention to the people who worked behind the desk. I was unaware of the programs the library offered as was my mother. We never attended a library program and avoided speaking to staff because they seemed intimidating. Looking back now I realize how important it is to create a welcoming library environment for all; one that makes New Arrivals and immigrants feel comfortable and confident in accessing information. This could be installing signage in different languages to hiring diverse staff which represent the people that visit the library.

I have worked as a Library Assistant for five years at a public library in California, and during this time I have gained a new perspective as to why libraries are significant places within our communities, in particular to underserved and underrepresented ethnically diverse communities. These communities made me realize that I was in the right place and that I could make a difference by utilizing my bilingual skills, my passion for library advocacy, and immigrant rights. I enjoy working with underrepresented communities and connecting them to resources and services they may not be aware of. I get inspired every day by the people I meet and the stories they tell as I help them navigate the world of information.

I will be going into my third and final year of the Master’s in Library and Information Science (MLIS) program at San Jose State University. My time in the program has been wonderful and valuable as I have been able to use the knowledge I have gained thus far and apply it directly to my job. I have also been fortunate to have received the Spectrum Scholarship award for 2019. Being a member of ALA and PLA as a student of color has opened doors to a plenitude of resources and networks that I feel are invaluable as a future librarian of color.

Veronica Ramirez

It is empowering to think that I can be part of a changing future in librarianship. I have gained a unique perspective as an MLIS student of color when it comes to representation and why it matters, why it matters in public libraries. It is true that minorities are increasing in population; thus, it is important that when these populations walk through the library doors, they see themselves reflected in the people who greet them. When I see the look of relief in someone’s face as I greet them in Spanish, I see how assured and comfortable they become. This takes me back to the time my mother and I first walked into a library, lost and unaware of the possibilities before us. We did not know how to find our way around the library or all the resources we were missing. I want to be that someone who says “Hola, bienvenidos a la biblioteca.”