Alternative Voices: An Interview with REFORMA President Silvia Cisneros

Conducted by Emily Mann

EM: When did REFORMA start?

SC: REFORMA has been around for more than 40 years; it started in 1971.

EM: What are the mission and goals of the organization?

SC: REFORMA supports the development of Spanish language or Latino collections in libraries. We support further recruitment of bilingual and multicultural personnel. We promote and bring public awareness to libraries about Latinos and Latino culture. REFORMA advocates on behalf of the Latino community.

EM: What are some programs/events available to new members or professionals?

SC: REFORMA has twenty active chapters in the nation. Every chapter takes the time to work on accomplishing REFORMA's mission. Our chapters are very active and focus on providing current and new members with the opportunity to attend local mini conferences and workshops. At the national level, REFORMA welcomes new members into our community, and we provide them with any help or guidance they might need. In addition, REFORMA will host its 5th National REFORMA Conference in San Diego, and all are welcome to attend. When someone becomes a member of REFORMA, he or she can choose to be part of a chapter close to him or her and take advantage of networking and communicating with other members.

EM: What plans does REFORMA have for the future?

SC: REFORMA is working on our strategic plan and we have precise improvement goals that will make a difference in our organization. Our hopes are to have better services and support for our members and to provide more opportunities for library school students and members through our volunteer and scholarship programs. We would love to establish a webinar program where we can provide library school students and librarians with information about leadership, Latino literacy, diversity, and programming. We will also look into establishing a journal. Our organization has remarkable professionals and we would love to establish a peer-reviewed journal that focuses on Latino issues in libraries. Lastly, REFORMA is also working on establishing a conference every two years because of interest and demand for workshops on library services to Latinos.

EM: What are the some of the challenges REFORMA is facing and how do you plan to meet them?

SC: One of the challenges is, like many other organizations, we don't have enough funds. Our fundraising committee is working hard to create new strategies. Also, library students don't know much about our organization. As a result, I would like to see REFORMA form student chapters and increase awareness about Latino issues and culture to the student community. Another important thing is that we are missing representation of other caucuses within our organization. For some reason many librarians/professionals think REFORMA is only for Hispanic librarians, but we want and welcome librarians and professionals of all ethnic backgrounds to join us. REFORMA is open to everyone!

EM: What do you think are some of the challenges new librarians encounter? Do you have any recommendations for how to deal with them?

SC: New librarians are faced with more diverse communities/cultures, including language barriers and working with patrons from different ethnic backgrounds. It is important for new librarians to be willing to work with different ethnic communities and be open to learn about their cultures and values to better serve them. In addition to the change in technology, computers are taking over some positions and many patrons do not view libraries as before. As librarians, we must continue to advocate for libraries and books, and teach our communities about their importance. Librarians should be able to adapt existing services and create new ones to meet their community's needs, and change the public perception of "library".

EM: What do you see REFORMA doing 5 years from now?

SC: REFORMA is always reforming itself based on the needs and interests of our members and the growth and diversity of the Latino population in the United States. In 5 years, I see an increase in membership and an increase in educational tools to provide library services to Latinos. REFORMA will retain its place as the only professional library association that serves both librarians and library workers that want to serve Latinos, with the ultimate goal being that Latinos have equal access to academic, public, and school libraries.

Anyone interested in learning more about REFORMA can find information at REFORMA.

Emily Mann is the Research and Information Services Librarian at Florida State University. She wrote this when she served on the NMRT Membership Promotion, Diversity, & Recruitment Committee, Subcommittee for Diversity from 2014-2015.