Established in 1997, the Spectrum Scholarship Program is ALA's national diversity and recruitment effort designed to address the specific issue of under-representation of critically needed ethnic librarians within the profession while serving as a model for ways to bring attention to larger diversity issues in the future.The following are submissions from Spectrum Scholars on how they got involved with libraries and, more importantly, why they love them!
Lawyer Revisits Love for Libraries
By Shalu Gillum
Libraries and I go back as far as I can remember. My mother’s family owned and operated a lending library out of their home in New Delhi, India, until recently. I grew up hearing about this library, and it seemed to me perfectly normal that you could live in a library. My mother and I practically did, as we visited our public library several times a week in our hometown in Canada.
I first entered my school library at the age of eight, when I started volunteering there during recess (a great way to stay out of the cold Canadian winter weather). That experience changed my life and put me on the path that I am on now, twenty-three years later.
I volunteered at that library for five years under Mrs. McGuigan, our school librarian, who would take her helpers out for a special lunch once a year. We all looked forward to it, and it made us feel special and part of something important, rather than simply the “geeky” library volunteers.
After high school and moving from Canada to Florida, I found myself once again working in a library, this time my university’s medical school library. The three years I spent there also changed my life, as I met my husband, then a first-year pharmacy student, at that library while I worked the front desk.
Somehow it never occurred to me along the way to make a career out of all of the time I spent in the library, even after graduating from law school and working as a licensed attorney for several years. After some discontent with my career choice, it dawned on me that the happiest times in my life were spent in the library, so why not keep working in one?
Here I am now, starting my third semester in library school at the University of South Florida, working towards my master’s degree in Library and Information Science, and a proud ALA Spectrum Scholarship winner this year, wondering why I didn’t do this sooner.
Spreading the Library Word to Migrant Populations
By Candy Mendoza
My love for libraries came after the realization of their importance in our communities. I grew up in a small town, so our library hours were very limited. I didn't have a way to get to the library because I lived outside of the city limits. I never really attended a library program and I feel like I missed out on a lot.
I ended up working at a public library after college and it really opened my eyes to the impact it can make on the people that use it. I am a first generation Mexican American and I live in an area that has a growing Mexican American population. I was doing outreach for the Chicano/Latino community for the system and it was difficult to spread the word about library services. Mexico and other Latin countries don’t have public libraries. Libraries are usually only available to people attending a university. The concept of a "FREE" library is new and hard to pass along. I made it my mission to get involved and get as many people a card and let them know that it really is free. The library has language courses, reading material, and information about the area. It can be a key element in helping new citizens assimilate and get information to become involved in their communities. It can also be a tool for school preparedness. Getting books to read with your children will help them get ready for school.
I thought this message was so great that I started working with the Washington State Migrant Councils in our service area. I went to their classes and did story times. I also got the Bookmobile involved and the classes started checking out books from the Bookmobile twice a month. The teachers were happy and the kids were too. I was sold at all the possibilities that libraries provide on a daily basis. I decided to get my Master of Library Science and perhaps make a difference as an administrator one day.
I am honored to report that I am currently a Spectrum Scholar and my classes are going strong. I am excited to learn new things and implement some of them at work.
Learn more about The Spectrum Scholarship program.