Alessandra Gonzalez on Working as a Library Communications Manager
“The degree helped, but everything outside of it just put me onto another level – all the experience, all the people I connected with, the opportunities that came from joining clubs and working is unreal. I honestly don’t think I’d have all the opportunities I have right now if I didn’t get involved or put myself out there.”
Alessandra Gonzalez, MLIS ‘21
Alessandra did not grow up knowing she wanted to work in libraries but her mom ensured that she and her brother volunteered for them anyway.
“I’ve been in libraries since I was 10 – volunteering, getting hours, things like that. And then my first job was as a library page at Yorba Linda Public Library at 15. And I stayed in libraries. I took a break to work retail then I joined the Anaheim Public Library in 2015.”
But in spite of her early experience, libraries were not always at the forefront of her mind. Alessandra volunteered as a counselor on a sexual assault hotline and provided hospital visits for victims, which led her to Santa Ana College. Alessandra credits her background in marketing and design to her time there, working as the Lifestyle and Web Editor for their student paper, the el Don.
But once she was ready to transfer, Alessandra went on to UCI to finish her Bachelor’s in Psych/Criminal Justice.
Unsure if she wanted to go to law school or pursue a Master of Social Work, she interned through UCI’s UCDC program at Girls, Inc — a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing educational programming and mentorship to young women.
When she returned home, Alessandra had reached a different conclusion and decided to resume her work part-time at her public library so she could keep helping implement programs as a library technician and then assistant.
“I had so much fun in my internship, and it just snowballed from there. And then I was like, I should just get my master’s in library science. I was going up the ranks. I’m like, this is where I belong at the moment. So I diverted into that path, even though it was always part of my life.”
As many library students know, the only way to continue her upward momentum was higher education, so she turned to San José State University.
It also helped that everyone Alessandra worked with had already completed their library science degree at the iSchool, and could vouch for their experience there, too.
With her experience working in libraries, Alessandra decided to take classes in subjects she was less familiar with — learning about cultural competencies, intercultural communication, and other more theoretical topics — which is also what led her to join SJSU’s REFORMA branch. For those that don’t know, REFORMA is a library professional group that advocates for Spanish-speaking communities.
“The whole connotation is that you have to be Latino and speak
Spanish to be part of the group. Absolutely not. If in your
profession, or as a student you want to work with
Spanish-speaking communities, I definitely recommend you not only
attend to make connections, but to learn what other people have
done to serve the Spanish-speaking communities in different
Alessandra had already been a longtime REFORMA member through her local chapter, but this was her chance to become more involved, working as the group’s Second Webmaster alongside the social media team, and it taught her how to work in a team and manage group dynamics.
“The degree helped,” Alessandra stressed, “but everything outside of that kind of just put me onto another level – all the experience, all the people I connected with, the opportunities that came from that, is unreal. Like, I honestly don’t think I’d have all the opportunities I have right now if I didn’t get involved or if I didn’t put myself out there.”
Finding Work and New Opportunities
Like most MLIS students, Alessandra had to gather work to demonstrate the core library competencies in her portfolio in order to graduate. “I used a lot of my work experience for my portfolio. Team programming, cataloging, and a lot of other stuff. But for other competencies, I leaned on my cultural competence and my intercultural communication assignments and my coding classes.”
Because she had started her MLIS in 2019, much of her time in school was spent during lockdown, and that impacted her time at the Anaheim Public Library, too. Like many libraries, they had resorted to curbside pickup and with shifting internal changes, she was given the chance to become a Part-Time Librarian in 2021 before getting her most recent position in the Communications Department in 2022.
As the Communications Manager, Alessandra is in charge of all things marketing and publicity for her library, including print materials, social media, and the web. She works with her assistant manager who creates videos, too, and together, with their team they’ve won Gale/Library Journal Library of the Year (2021), the Power of the Libraries award (2021), and several other awards. Their library does amazing things, and it’s Alessandra’s job to ensure the community knows about it.
“I love how we have the permission to get really creative with marketing these campaigns. For summer reading, we did a whole production for our video and it was so much fun, really to get the staff involved. It’s another way for staff to get creative and serve in their community. You get to act, you get to play dress up, to jump on social media trends, and things like that. That’s been really amazing and we have a lot planned for next year.”
Part of what’s made them so creative, Alessandra said, was thanks to their predecessor, SJSU alumna Chloe Van Stralendorff who established the Communications Department and their brand on social media.
“We want to show our community engaging with us. So we don’t ever post flyers or just text posts, we show our little ones, our stay-and-play programs, and adults using our career services. We want to show that these are real people using our real services, show something that will stop someone, and have them go click on the linktree in our bio and find out more.”
Advice for the Future
Alessandra started her new position as Communications Manager in September after working with her predecessor part-time for 5 years, so while the role is new, her time at the Anaheim Public Library is a continuation of what she has done for years.
“I don’t work with the public anymore. But I get to go down and document it and I get to hear all the great things that librarians are doing and I get to make sure that people know about them. So that’s my working with the public aspect, you know, digitally or through marketing.”
As far as advice for students interested in following in her steps?
Check This Out!
Alessandra’s on the Beatty Award Committee for the California Library Association, and most recently has read Cookies and Milk by Shawn Amos: “It’s a middle-grade book based on the family cookie empire ‘Famous Amos.’ It’s a heartwarming story about family bonds here in Southern California.”
For fun, Alessandra’s tastes tend to lean towards the macabre. “I just finished reading Tender is the Flesh. It’s great if you can handle horror and a little bit of gore. It is pretty gnarly but in such a phenomenal way. In essence, it shows a reflection of our society right now and where we might be headed, or where we already are. And I really highly recommend it. Top 10.”