Conscientious Bibliotecario
Mark Puente, ARL leading future librarians of color
Monday, February 25, 2013
by: Eva Rios-Alvarado

Section: News Articles

March 2013

Eva Rios-Alvarado, AKA "Xicana MLIS" Is an M.L.I.S. Candidate at Simmons College and a former Cybernauta at LAPL Connect on Facebook!

“The more we do to break down those barriers and ensure our profession is inclusive, opportunities and advancement open to all people, the better our profession will be.”
 ---Mark A. Puente, ARL Director of Diversity and Leadership Programs
From day-one, REFORMA has been a motivator. The REFORMA-LA Chapter is like a family to me, and REFORMA-OC assisted me with scholarship money for graduate school. REFORMista colleagues, without hesitation, have helped guide, nurture my first thoughts into librarianship, while working at Echo Park Branch Library, part of Los Angeles Public Library. It was not easy. Finally, the hard work and dedication paid off. My educational career was on the right path, then something evermore life changing happened to me, catapulting my graduate experience.

the diversity cause is not something that everyone is committed to. We have to frame our conversations in such a way that we acknowledge that complexity

In 2012, after my acceptance to Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, I was selected as a 2012-2014 Association of Research Libraries (ARL)-Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce (IRDW) Scholar. The ARL-IRDW program has inspired a new outlook. I feel acknowledged, appreciated and motivated. Possibilities that never would have committed to an inking in my path are now ever-possible. ARL- Diversity and Leadership and REFORMA are some of the proponents for diversity and representation within LIS fields. Leaders in their specialties, ARL, REFORMA, and ALA have made active advancements to the profession, historically and into the future, addressing the racial/ethnic and economic divide conversations. Champions and active players in LIS, these organizations continue to support students and professionals, like myself, who are the next generation of librarians.
One person in particular, Mark A. Puente, Director of Diversity and Leadership Programs for ARL, who I had the recent pleasure of meeting at the 2013 ARL Leadership Symposium in Seattle, Washington, is one of the forerunners in the LIS community taking on the responsibility to, “prepare and advance minority librarians into leadership positions in ARL libraries”. Through community building, programming, and funding, students are supported in the areas truly vital to success. ARL helps in means of: professional development, mentoring, funding, and networking opportunities. Mark, a tejano, originally a music librarian and musician, is creating a platform helping students thrive into their careers.
While in Seattle, I was able to chat with Mark and make real connections between my career and the initiatives that ARL supports. Our conversation, addressed some of the objective concerns and the atmosphere of LIS communities in relation to diverse representation.
During our brief chat, I asked Mark why inclusivity is relevant to libraries. Mark, skillful yet humble, contextualized the realities of our current situation: “The data tell us that, in spite of many successful recruitment programs, representation remains pretty static over the last ten years. There are still societal, cultural, environmental, and (especially in our organizations), systemic barriers to people of color considering this as a viable career option. I agree with Mark, the conversation is complex. I believe, ARL-Diversity and Leadership has provided a unique solution with the support they provide to their scholars. I know firsthand how their support has impacted my career. I have been able to meet with library directors, deans, and human resource experts from ARL institutions, through my connections to ARL-IRDW. They have opened a pathway, essentially giving opportunities to grow as a member within the network, or beyond.
Further into our chat, Mark pinpoints the greatest challenge to be, “that the diversity cause is not something that everyone is committed to. We have to frame our conversations in such a way that we acknowledge that complexity and begin to understand each other better and fully appreciate our differences.” It’s true. We all know the historical and current context for the lack of representation by people of color in professional positions within LIS, but how do we articulate the conversation in a forward thinking way? He continued by adding,I do hope that one day we'll have more "buy in" and dedication to the [ARL] programs. Not that there aren't a lot of highly supportive ARL directors and LIS faculty, but I still think that people struggle with identifying and articulating the true value that these programs bring to our organizations, to the profession, and to society. I truly hope that this becomes a regular part of the conversation that we have about the future of the profession, Regardless of the professional context (academic, public libraries, etc.) ensuring that we have a diverse professional workforce is vital to our our survival. I'm not certain how we'll remain relevant if we don't work towards this goal.”
Visionaries like Mark, have found a way to expose job and professional development opportunities to us scholars. By aligning himself and his passions, Mark has been able to witness some of the greatest outcomes. He comments, ”the greatest accomplishment, I think, is when we help students accomplish their goals and shepherd them to positions (and careers) that allows them to thrive and excel. I think it's great that we are affecting the demographic landscape of our member libraries, and that we're getting more people from underrepresented groups into the pipeline, but I think that accomplishment pales in comparison to supporting and enabling individual successes. This, to me, is the most fulfilling part of my job.”  In short, ARL has changed my life. Great things are happening and the job market looks promising. All of the benefits that come with being an ARL Diversity Scholar have improved my chances of employment and more. I hope to graduate in December of 2013. Thank you ARL Diversity and Leadership!
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