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Let the spotlight shine on the Spectrum scholars! Join Spectrum Scholarship Sponsor ProQuest in congratulating the amazing students and professionals who have shaped the library profession for 15 years.
By Melody Tsz-Way Leung
My background as an American-born Chinese daughter has inspired me to work with underserved communities. Opportunities to participate in research projects has solidified my goal of helping everyone find a voice and be confident in who they are.
Before entering the University of Washington (UW) Information School, I never had an interest in conducting academic research. As an undergrad at the UW Foster Business School, I learned that I loved marketing research; conducting interviews and creating surveys in order to find a demand for an interesting new product. In graduate school, I learned that academic research provides the same enjoyment I had with marketing research — except now I can conduct and use research to make a difference in the library profession.
The most eye-opening course I have taken thus far is the Research Methods course taught by Professor Ricardo Gomez. In lectures about units of analysis and effective interviewing I learned about participatory photography. From there, my first research project conducted with Molly Moore, Ariana Meyrich-Blomquist, and Alyssa Heller was born:
- Impact: Our goal was to learn about the information needs and dreams of the community’s Spanish-speaking population in order to learn how they can be better served.
- Setting: The most important part of this project was to develop trust with our participants. Trust was gained by spending time with the families during an existing family reading program.
- Research Method:
> We conducted our research with participatory photography. We loaned cameras to interested participants with prompts to help start the conversation. Our team interviewed the participants about their photos — specifically why they took the picture and who/what is in the picture.
> This method opens up the conversation further than the traditional interview process.
- Themes revealed:
> Pride in their children
> Importance of education
> Importance of family
- How we shared our findings:
> We wrote a paper documenting the significance of the themes and how libraries can incorporate the themes into programs.
> For each theme, we created posters depicting interview quotes and relevant pictures.
> To show the community the stories we uncovered we hosted a gallery opening at the library featuring the posters.
> Lastly, a video was created and shown to our UW class that documented the gallery opening. This video included a look at the community, the library, the community’s reactions to the posters, and the impact our project had on families who participated in the project.
This project became a large part of my graduate career. It led me to realize that my background, as a daughter of immigrant parents, gave me a drive to find ways to better serve those like my parents and other overlooked populations.
Overall, this project started as a way to empower our participants by letting them choose what to show us. In the end, it was their stories that empowered us to pursue more impactful projects for public libraries.
Public libraries are like a living organism that never dies. They grow and evolve in order to stay relevant to society. As long as people have dreams and as long as communities continue to grow, public libraries are needed for continual community transformation.
I believe the most important trend in libraries today is looking beyond the traditional concept of a library through:
- Community involvement to hear the voices that are not often heard in the community — through research like participatory photography or through programs that bring the community together — there are many new ways to hear the needs of the community.
- Marketing through proper use of social media — especially in public libraries, people are often stunned by the resources offered. Public libraries have the services but don’t always spread the word through the proper channels.
- Partnerships to share resources — It’s amazing what can be done working together with other organizations. There are many organizations that have a similar vision as libraries, they just haven’t found each other yet.
There is also much work that can be done inside the library through organizational buy-in where everyone is a library ambassador. When every staff member shares the same vision for the library — that’s when the most effective marketing can occur. The same vision can be conveyed through many avenues, including actively sharing everyday stories of how library services have changed lives.
By learning all of these concepts in library school it makes me even more excited to join the public library profession. I had no idea there was so much going on behind the scenes in libraries and how they make a difference in the communities each library serves.
For this, I am grateful to be a Spectrum Scholar where I get to be a part of a group of leaders who all have visions for a brighter future. I want to thank ProQuest and the American Library Association Spectrum Scholarship Program for giving me a chance to grow as a leader. I’m ecstatic about the mentorships I will develop and for the advice I will hear as I step foot into my early career as an information professional.
Interested in Identity too? Here’s a blog post I wrote for the iYouth UW blog focused on identities. Being an ABC but Also a Superhero.
Find me on LinkedIn.