Student Young-Soon Kwon Reaches Out to Her Multicultural Community
“In Korea, we used the library just as a study room or to check out scholarly journals,” she said. “It doesn’t function like a community center the way it does here. I’d never experienced anything like it. It has driver’s handbooks, tax forms, ESL classes, a chess club, storybook time, and even helps you pay your water bills…I fell in love with the library.”
Kwon immediately began volunteering in the San Diego Public Library system and started spreading the word about “what a great resource the library is” to the multicultural community. She’s worked her way up to a full-time clerk position at the Mira Mesa Public Library and is pursuing her MLIS at San José State University School of Information, thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The IMLS grant was awarded last year to the Serra Cooperative Library System, which serves San Diego and Imperial Counties, the two California counties that border Mexico. iSchool partnered with Serra on the grant. IMLS funding makes it possible for Serra to provide scholarships to Kwon and other staff members at Serra’s 14 public libraries. The scholarships are aimed at helping the next generation of librarians earn their MLIS degree and prepare to serve the area’s multicultural and multilingual communities.
Kwon hopes to increase her library’s outreach to its large Chinese, Filipino, Korean, and Vietnamese communities. She also wants to set an example for other library staff members who are thinking about earning their MLIS degree someday.
Kwon has appreciated the financial support made possible through the IMLS grant, which includes funds to help her pay for Internet access and a laptop so she can be successful in the school’s fully online MLIS program. However, the mentoring provided through the Librarians for Diverse Communities program has been equally beneficial. Kwon is paired with a mentor who is a branch manager at another library in the Serra system, and the two keep in regular touch via phone and email to discuss everything from schoolwork to the ins and outs of library management. iSchool also set up an ANGEL course site for the scholarship recipients so they can communicate with each other throughout their time in the MLIS program.
So far, Kwon has completed two semesters. She’s already seen how her coursework has helped her do a better job at work, while at the same time her library experience has informed her approach to classes.
Kwon is juggling her MLIS courses with working full time, taking two classes a semester and raising her teenage son. “The scholarship has really encouraged me,” she said.
Kwon plans to continue to work in a public library when she graduates, either as a reference librarian or in acquisitions. “The library is never boring,” she said. “There’s always different people, different questions. I’m really glad that I have the privilege of working there.”