OVERDUE: Weeding Out Oppression in Libraries

S2, E10: Librarians of Color Advocating for Youth w/Ayn Reyes Frazee & Mai Takahashi

January 31, 2024 OVERDUE: Weeding Out Oppression in Libraries Season 2 Episode 10
OVERDUE: Weeding Out Oppression in Libraries
S2, E10: Librarians of Color Advocating for Youth w/Ayn Reyes Frazee & Mai Takahashi
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we hear from Ayn Reyes Frazee and Mai Takahashi, co-chairs of the newly formed EDI Committee of ALSC (Association of Library Services to Children, a division of ALA). Frazee, who serves as current president of the Oregon Association of School Libraries, is a high school librarian in Portland and was a 2019 ALSC Equity and Diversity Fellow. Takahashi is a youth services librarian at the Seattle Public Library, working closely with Seattle’s Indigenous community and with local nonprofits that serve currently and formerly incarcerated people and their families. She was a 2020 ALSC Equity and Diversity Fellow.

 The duo discusses the formation of the committee from the viewpoint of BIPOC library staffers serving diverse communities, and the career paths and advocacy for youth that led them to these positions. We hear their vision for the on-going scope of work ahead in the effort to bring more voices to the table.

Hosts: Ericka Brunson-Rochette & Constance Palaia
Date of Interview: January 16, 2024

Association of Library Services to Children
ALSC EDI Committee
ALSC Equity Fellowship
JCLC (Joint Council for Librarians of Color)

[Intro Music Playing]

Constance Palaia:    Welcome to this episode of OVERDUE: Weeding Out Oppression in Libraries. I'm Constance Palaia, an elementary school librarian in Southern Oregon.

Ericka Brunson-Rochette:  And I'm Ericka Brunson-Rochette, she/her pronouns, serving youth zero to five and families in Central Oregon. Today we are so excited to have our guests, Ayn Reyes Frazee and Mai Takahashi, joining us.

 Ayn Reyes Frazee is a high school librarian in Portland Public Schools and an advocate for inclusive library spaces. Frazee serves as President of the Oregon Association of School Libraries and was a 2019 ALSC Equity and Diversity fellow. She is also a children's and YA book reviewer for Kirkus. Outside of books and libraries, Ayn enjoys all types of crafting, most recently seen screen printing and sign painting.

 Mai Takahashi is a youth services librarian at the Seattle Public Library. Originally from Japan, she moved to the US as an adult. Mai's journey in libraries began at the Monterey Public Library where she started as a page. Currently, she works closely with many young readers in Seattle, particularly in the urban Indigenous community. Additionally, Mai works with local nonprofits that support individuals who are formally or currently incarcerated, along with their families and communities in Seattle. Beyond the library, Mai is a proud mom of three teenagers. Her interests include reading, cooking, enjoying the sauna at her gym, and hiking. She's looking forward to taking a ukulele class in 2024.

 Welcome to the show, Ayn and Mai.

Thank you so much, Ayn and Mai, for joining us on OVERDUE. We're so excited to have you here. We're going to start with kind of a icebreaker question, something to help us just get to know each other a little bit before we dive into some of our other questions. And our icebreaker today is one of my favorite days of the year is quickly approaching, the Youth Media Awards. So the 2024 awards, which are going to include the Coretta Scott King Award, Newbery, Pura Belpré, Caldecott, Prince, and the Alex Award, among many others, are going to be announced next Monday, January 22nd.

 Now, I know this interview is going to be released after that date, but I am curious if you two have any predictions of personal favorite titles that came out in 2023 that you hope to see get some love. And Ayn, we'll start with you for this.

Ayn Reyes Frazee: Well, thanks. I'm a bit of a Youth Media Awards superfan. It's my Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes all rolled into one. I love being there in person when I can and I love watching it on YouTube. The energy is just so awesome and it's really cool to see what all the committees come up with and it's a lot of hard work and that's like the culmination.

2023 was an incredible year for kid lit and young adult lit. There were just some really beautiful, beautiful books that came out. I think maybe the snowy weather has me thinking about I'm Going to Build a Snowman. The author's name is Jashar Awan, and it's like this beautiful... It feels like almost an homage to The Snowy Day, but kind of updated. His mom takes a picture of him and a snowman with her cell phone and just beautiful illustrations and just that kid joy of playing out in the snow and just having a good time and not worrying about perfection and just tapping into that creativity and fun. That's, I think, we're looking for in children's literature, just beautiful illustrations and a fun message and something that kids can see themselves in and relate to, so I think that one will be earning some medals.

Ericka Brunson-...: Yeah, absolutely. And I think just a reminder that at any age sometimes, we have to just stop and go build a snowman, right? Yes.

What about you, Mai? Any favorites?

Mai Takahashi: Yeah! Well, so unlike Ayn, I don't do any predictions or anything and because in the past, I always miss.

Ericka Brunson-...: It's tricky. Yeah, you're not in that deliberation room.

Mai Takahashi: Yeah. But my favorite book of 2023 is My Powerful Hair. I think it's by Carole Lindstrom. And Seattle Public Library, we did a story walk with Daybreak Star, the Native preschool that I work with, and My Powerful Hair was one of the five books that teachers chose, and it was just so beautiful, the story. It touches so many different layers of boarding school to the history and the culture and how important it is for the Native culture to keep growing their hairs, or sometimes they have to cut if it's a special occasion, and it's really well-written for preschoolers to understand the history. Yeah, so that's my favorite of 2023.

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: That's such a good book, Mai.

Ericka Brunson-...: It's a wonderful one, yeah. Thank you for sharing.

Mai Takahashi: Thank you.

Ericka Brunson-...: Yeah, I hope to get some love around both of those titles.

Constance Palai...: Yeah. We're going to start with some questions now. We hear that you are co-chairing the newly formed EDI committee for ALSC, the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of ALA.

 Firstly, congratulations and thank you for this work. Before we dive into the committee itself, can you tell us more about ALSC as a division and the services and support it provides to library professionals working with children?

Mai Takahashi: Yeah, I still feel like I'm still really new to ALSC and ALA. Before this fellowship program, I wasn't a member of ALA and so I'm still learning. And with ALSC, so it's basically a group of children's librarians who work with the youth, and to me, they provide professional development such as, I don't know, correctional maintenance to how to provide more EDI-focused programs and stuff like that. Yeah, I don't know, Ayn?

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: The only thing I would add is that it's the division of ALA that really focuses in on library staff who are having direct contact with kids who are zero to 18, and it's also the division that facilitates the awards that you mentioned earlier. So all of those Newbery, Caldecott, Prince, and then in conjunction with REFORMA and YALSA, Pura Belpré, and then several other amazing, APALA, working together with APALA to do the APALA awards. And there's a whole... Well, you can see them all at the YMAs, but that's a big piece of the work that ALSC does. ALSC members are on those committees, so if you want to be on a committee at some point, ALSC will be part of your life.

 And then also, mentorship opportunities for maybe people who are starting out in their library careers working with kids. That was a big part of my initial interactions with ALSC is getting connected with a member who's a mentor and helping me along the way.

Ericka Brunson-...: Mentors are so, so important, not just in this work but in everything we do. So I'm thankful that you brought that up.

 I'm going to move on to our next question, which is that conversations around equity, diversity, and inclusion are certainly not new in the library realm. So it was a bit of an exciting surprise to hear that ALSC was forming this new Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. The surprise, of course, being that a committee like this didn't already exist.

 Can you tell us a bit about the formation of this committee and how each of you found yourselves chairing in this inaugural year?

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: Yeah, I can tell a little bit about that. And while it is a new committee, the work has definitely been part of ALSC for years and years. There was a task force that preceded the committee, so it was a task force that the board put together recognizing that there are a lot of complex issues around equity, diversity, inclusion in library work and in the services that provide any children and access and just a whole slew of issues that we see as BIPOC library staffers, and then also serving diverse communities.

 So ALSC jumped in with the EDI Task Force, I believe, in 2018 or even earlier than that with the previous president, and then Kirby McCurtis, who came on board as the president in 2020, continued with that work. But the EDI Task Force is the group that formed the ALSC Fellowship with the goal of bringing in more BIPOC voices into membership, and then also providing more professional opportunities for librarians and library staff of color as our profession, and then especially in library services to children and young children has looked historically pretty homogenous, pretty white, pretty cisgender female. And the question that always comes up is like, okay, how can we bring more voices into this work? Which I think this is a conversation and a question that's coming up in, I think, a lot of different spaces.

 And one of the solutions or one of that puzzle was, well, we need a group of people whose sole focus is supporting and amplifying and encouraging our BIPOC library staff. And that directly, that line of thinking directly led to this committee and I was on the Task Force and worked with some really wonderful, dedicated people. And then as the Task Force ended, the Committee rose from the ashes. No, that sounds really dramatic. The Committee, the board voted this is not just a task force type of situation. This is something that needs to continue permanently and on and on forever because it's not like the Task Force fixed... "Well, we solved the problem of... Great job."

 So it's an ongoing, as we all know, an ongoing work that we're doing and I'm excited to jump into it with Mai. I'll let you add.

Mai Takahashi: Thank you. No, no, you covered it pretty much. And yeah, my understanding was very similar to Ayn. EDI Committee is... So EDI work is for everyone, not the POC staff member or library staff. So this work, this committee is not to train other committee members or members, general members, to do their EDI work. Our job... My understanding or my vision is to really create a pathway for POC library staff who are interested in getting involved in our schoolwork to really create a pathway and support their journey and that's kind of my understanding of the focus on this committee. So it's not like we are the EDI resource for the other committees and members.

Ericka Brunson-...: Thank you for that, and thank you both for the time that you commit to this work and your advocacy and support in paving the way for other library staff of color to have those opportunities.

Constance Palai...: Yeah. And you're right, it never ends. It's a process.

How are individuals chosen to serve on the committee and what demographic and regional areas do they represent? Do you feel like there are gaps right now in the representation that you'd like to see filled as the committee evolves?

Mai Takahashi: Yeah, good question. So I haven't been in a selecting side yet. We will be soon. So I can only speak for the current committee members and I think we are a pretty diverse committee compared to probably other committee groups, but I can see I really wanted to have at least one Native members in this group this year and that didn't happen, so hopefully next year. And more, I'd love to see more folks in who can bring in the voices of ability and disability and/or other kind of all-inclusive perspectives. That's what I see.

 Yeah, geographically, I think we are pretty well covered? I think West Coast and at least in-

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: We do cover a lot of different time zones, but I would say that most of us are from more urban library systems-

Mai Takahashi: That is true.

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: ... rather than rural library systems, and I think that would be obviously a very different experience and something that I would like to be more intentional about outreach to adding to our committee.

 The recruitment, the incoming president, the president-elect of ALSC looks over the volunteer forms that folks have filled out throughout the year and looks for people who self-identified as people who are interested in this specific committee. And then beyond that, it's a lot of word of mouth, like Mai and I put some names forward, "Here's somebody who I've had amazing conversations with," or, "here's somebody who I know is a member of ALSC who I think is on board with this type of work and who would be an asset to the committee, somebody who we wouldn't maybe have to get up to speed or bring along in different ways."

 And so then Janda McNair reached out to those people individually and some folks are at capacity and said no, and some folks are at capacity and said yes anyway, and some people were just looking for a way to get connected and this was it. So hopefully, our committee grows a little bit. I think we're on the smaller side, but we've been really kind of thoughtful about trying to include as many voices as we can.

 I know a personal goal for me is that no community is a monolith and while we have Asian representation and Latina representation, my experience is going to be different from other people's experience. And I think the more voices and the more perspectives, definitely that's a strength that we can bring

Ericka Brunson-...: Yeah, for sure. And we know that it's just getting started. So really all of the places that this committee can go are endless in bringing in those perspectives and voices that are so necessary.

 I know, Ayn, you had mentioned briefly about the ALSC Equity Fellowship and your experience with that when the committee was a task force. I was curious if you could share more about that ALSC Equity Fellowship program and the requirements and the process for someone that's interested in becoming a fellow. What does that look like?

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: Great question. We've done it twice total, and I was a member of the first six fellows and Mai was a member of the next set of fellows, so you're talking to two people from the two different cohorts, and every cohort has taught us something new about the process and what that looks like. But I'd say it's definitely still very much in flux.

 My experience was that in 2019, I was selected as the first cohort of ALSC EDI Fellows. So some really specific and targeted outreach at librarians of color who are working with children and who are... I think when I applied it was maybe you were in your first 10 years of working as a library professional with young people. And at that time, I was and I was working at an elementary school library. And then the requirements are working with the task force and then also working with the other fellows on a project. And then the benefits were that the fellowship paid for my ALA membership, which can be quite expensive. I think it's an expensive membership. And then it also paid for my ALSC membership and then also paid for travel to Midwinter and an annual conference, which I had never been to before. Cost was definitely a barrier for me, and I could say confidently that I maybe would not have gone. I definitely wouldn't have gone in 2019, but probably would've been several more years before I would've attended a national conference without that fellowship.

 And then got connected with some other really cool people who were in that same stage of life as me and then got connected with a mentor who was just lovely and I'm still in touch with today. We still send each other cards in the mail today and it worked out really, really well. But I would say we learned a lot. And then I helped kind of formulate the questions from Mai's cohort of fellows and you can tell a little bit more about that.

Mai Takahashi: Yeah, so the second-year fellowship, similar thing, we got the funding to attend ALA and Lib Learn X, but my year was the year pandemic hit, 2020. So our program got extended, so we had a total of two years and we were able to attend both. First year was virtual and then second year kind of in person in DC. That was really great.

 And then kind of piggybacking the previous question, what the fellowship program did to me was really providing me the opportunity to create a network and getting to know each other or getting to know Ayn and other task force people. And those are a really valuable thing, and just to knowing that there are people out there looking out for us, and it was my first time at ALA and I was really looking forward to meeting those cool people and that was a very valuable experience.

 Yeah, so right now, we are revising the description of this fellowship program and stepping back and then putting more, I guess, spending more time to direct what the direction we want to bring this fellowship program. So if you're interested in this profession and getting more, widening your horizon and connected to other POC members, I think this is a really great way to do. Yeah.

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: So right now, we're in the tweaking phase, the fine-tuning phase, and then also working to secure a more consistent revenue stream to support so that we can have a dependable Equity Fellowship every year. So looking at that, I think our timeline for this time around is probably going to be that the application will come out in 2024, late 2024, and then the next cohort will get started in 2025. So a little bit of a gap, but I think that time will let this new committee really dig in and get some good systems in place so that our next... I mean, I'm hoping that we have then cohorts and cohorts and cohorts and cohorts to come, but we're still kind of working out the detail piece of it.

 And I totally agree with you, Mai, just that ALSC and ALA as an organization felt so huge and so almost inaccessible just as a newcomer and especially as somebody who was newer in the field, just being around all the people who, it seems like, somehow they're 40 years old but have 70 years of experience somehow and it just felt really intimidating and just hard, inaccessible almost. And just having a smaller group of people who took the time to shepherd us into the group and making introductions and like, "Oh, here's this person, here's that person," it just made a really huge difference to me, for sure.

Mai Takahashi: Yeah, yeah. And then I think it was fellow task force people who organized that space at ALA and Lib Learn X too, I think, for POC participants, and I think those spaces are really, really important for someone like me who it was the first time to attend. Yeah, so like Ayn said, we are really trying to come up with a very concrete outcome of this program and writing up those things, pinning the details.

Constance Palai...: That sounds so awesome. So will you share your vision of the ALSC EDI Committee? Where do you see areas of support and collaboration existing that could assist in moving the goals forward?

Mai Takahashi: Yeah, this is a good question too. And I still think that this committee, including the fellowship program, is really to nurture each other as a POC library staff. And the direction that I see is really securing that space and hearing each other's voice and empowering each other. I think that's kind of my vision and direction.

 And in terms of collaboration, I think definitely collaborating with other committees. We need a budget committee too, other school-age program committee too, we need to collaborate with those committees too. And this is my really personal goal, but I'd love to see this committee to work with the JCLC Conference so that we have some sort of space and voice at those conferences as well, so that JCLC has a space for youth service librarian, POC library staff, I don't know, to do something to empower each other. That's kind of my goal.

 What do you think, Ayn?

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: I totally agree 100% with all of what you said, Mai, and then I guess the ultimate goal would be that our committee wouldn't be necessary anymore because EDI work and inclusion is so infused into every aspect of our professional organizations that it's just redundant, but I think that would be the pie in the sky, down the road type of thing. So we're putting systems in place and having those conversations now with the ultimate goal that an EDI task force would feel like, "Why would we have a task force or why would we have a committee for something that's just like second nature, just like breathing?" That's not going to happen today or tomorrow or next week. I mean, similar to the OLA EDI Committee that you're working so hard with.

 I agree, I think more collaboration, more conversations. I think a lot of different pockets of people are doing this work and having these conversations, but maybe bringing all the moving parts together and have a more holistic view of what this work looks like for the different parts of our organizations.

Ericka Brunson-...: Thank you both for sharing that, and those are both visions and goals that I can 1,000% get behind. I would love for a future where our committee also doesn't exist because it is so commonplace and that maybe things like this podcast are framed differently. Instead of being an opportunity to really amplify voices that have been silenced, it's just a collective way to celebrate the amazing diversity of the library profession or ideally of our world as a whole, right?

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: I love that. I love that, Ericka.

Ericka Brunson-...: Yeah. We're going to get there, but like you said, it's probably not today, tomorrow, or next week, or this year or next year, but we have to believe, at least I have to believe in my heart of hearts, that all of this work is for... It's a better future.

 But this is a perfect segue into our next question. It sounds like we all know this very well, but committee work is a big commitment of time, effort, and energy amongst many other responsibilities. What barriers exist for people in a job like yourselves that are interested in serving on a committee? Do you have any advice for interested professionals that may not have the support of their employer to do committee work?

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: I think the passion is there and the commitment is there for so many people, but the time sometimes just doesn't feel tenable, so I think just capacity as a barrier. When we're doing advocacy work and when we're doing social justice work and when we're doing this type of work, burnout is real. It can feel so hard to move the dial that I think a lot of people do, and I find myself just getting sometimes bogged down a little bit or getting kind of stuck in like, "Well, how are we going to tackle this?" It can feel like a really huge job, but maybe just kind of reframing my thinking of, "Well, any difference that we make is making a difference in our profession."

 If you don't have the support of your employer, I think then that makes it exponentially more difficult because if you have to find the time outside of your workday, if you have to find the time outside of your personal commitments, that can be a huge challenge. So maybe just looking for the ways that you can participate and rather than, "Well, I can't participate 100% so I won't participate," maybe seeing what different levels of participation might look like. So okay, you can't be on the committee, maybe you can commit to joining the OLA for a podcast recording, or maybe you can't serve on the committee, but you could attend the meetings as you're able to, as maybe not as a standing member, but as a guest member.

 I think just trying to, I know for me, just thinking... I kind of get into that all-or-nothing thinking. "Okay, if I don't have employer support, if I am feeling burnt out, what are some ways that I can still show up?"

Mai Takahashi: Yeah, that's all well said, Ayn. Yeah, I mean, thinking about this capacity, I think when I talked to at least five people when we were recruiting a member to this committee, I think five out of five said that they couldn't do it because of the capacity. They were maxed out and they were interested in it and they wanted, they wish they could, but just the capacity, and the capacity is real, and I wish I had a solution.

 You need to have support from your workplace and from your family, yourself. And burnout is real. So yeah, like Ayn said, if not the committee, if the committee is not the style or time commitment, then find something else, and then that's still towards EDI and social justice work that we all are passionate about.

 So if you are interested in this committee, I would say we are all human being and we are doing our best. So if I can't attend a monthly meeting, but at least maybe half, that's a possibility. So talk to us if you're interested. Your passion is the most important value, not the hours of contribution. So come talk to us and we can figure out.

Constance Palai...: I think that's such an important way of having committees and participation that you give what you can, and for you to say, "That's good good enough," that's awesome.

 We're switching gears a little bit here. Mai, we would really love to hear about your children's services in American libraries or the Seattle Public Library, where you are and how that differs from what you did in Japan where you were born and raised.

Mai Takahashi: Yeah, thank you for that. I don't think I've ever been asked this question. First of all, public libraries in Japan, it is very different. I think we are behind in the way, at least library service, what people think is library equals books. And yeah, we have a story time and other programs, but not much, say, collaboration with local schools or other partnership with nonprofit organizations. I think public libraries there are still very much books, resources, and people come to the library, get what they wanted, and then leave, and reaching out to the community that aren't able to come to the library. That type of ideas are not there yet. So that's a huge difference, I think.

 And yeah, Seattle Public Library, I am really fortunate to work in this organization. I think our ideas and directions, or at least my colleagues, we have more social workers component besides librarianship, and we all get trained on deescalation to how to talk to or mental illness and neurodivergent-type thing, and we are learning those things. And I don't think public libraries in Japan are there yet. Yeah, it doesn't mean bad or anything, but the needs are different. Yeah.

Ericka Brunson-...: And I feel like that last point is a really important one, right? Needs are different and communities look different and what people and individuals and communities need, those approaches are going to be different. Right?

Mai Takahashi: Yeah.

Ericka Brunson-...: We really appreciate you sharing that with us, Mai.

 I have a question specifically for Ayn, and although it is a very... It's similar but very different. So we know that you are working in a school library, and when it comes to larger associations like ALA, like ALSC, like even our Oregon Library Association, efforts and resources tend to be disproportionately aimed at individuals serving in public libraries due to the membership majority. Are there ways that national or state associations can better support school library staff or school librarians?

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: I love that question. Thanks, Ericka. The way that school libraries and schools are funded in our state is just totally different than the way that public libraries are funded in our state. School libraries get... Well, they're funded in the same way that schools are and public libraries have their whole different revenue track. So I think if we wanted to look at the big picture, changing, overhauling education funding would be just a huge, huge conversation. But I think just that willingness to collaborate and openness, OLA is always awesome about including school library programs in the conferences that are put on and the webinars, and we've got our Oregon Association of School Libraries, a professional organization, and we've co-hosted conferences in the past with the Oregon Council of Teachers for English and OLA and WLA, and so a lot of crossover appeal, but I think maybe just remembering that school libraries are serving... There's a lot of overlap in what we're doing and who we're serving, and we can only be better together, I think.

 I reach out to my public library branch quite frequently because they just have different resources than I do. I'm constantly using the databases that our public library has available and teaching my students how one just amazing move that our public library has done in Multnomah County to support students in Multnomah County, it's called Library Connect. And we've worked together to have our student ID numbers work as a public library card now, which has been a total game-changer. It's like one of those things that's like, "Well, of course. That makes so much sense. It's so easy. Students know that number already, and every student who's enrolled in school should be a public library user as well." And I think it wasn't easy logistically to make that happen, but now that it's part of our life, I just can't imagine going back to not having it. It's just boosting what I'm able to do with students, and it's boosting the public library's connections with our students in a lot of different ways.

 So just thinking of those inroads, what are some ways that we're duplicating our work and how can we streamline it? I think associations just including school libraries when... I think I hear a lot like, "Oh, teachers and librarians and dah, dah, dah, dah." And it's like, "Oh, I'm a teacher and a librarian." So maybe not differentiating between the teachers and librarians because school librarians are... I am a teachers. So just keeping school librarians and school libraries, there's just so many fewer of us, especially in Oregon, that it can feel like, oh, that's just such a small slice of the pie. But I think that impact is huge because we're seeing every single K through 12 kid, maybe not every single K through 12 kid, depending on where you live, but we're seeing them every day, whereas maybe the public library is only seeing them after school or on the weekend.

 So yeah, I think there's just a lot of crossover and we need to remind ourselves, and I need to remind myself constantly that we're only stronger if we team up.

Constance Palai...: Yes, thank you for that. So this question is about what keeps your fire lit in this profession? What motivates you to keep going even during the hard times? What's your why?

Mai Takahashi: Yeah, really good question. I think to me, it's really the readers or young people, brilliant readers, their energy or their eyes, when their eyes shine, that's really... It really comes down to it to me. I have this privilege to work with the Native community in Seattle, and I often go to the outreach and when I bring some books and the parents, caregivers come to me and they share their stories. "My baby really reacted to the book that you brought, Mai, and she didn't do that for these books, but this particular book." And then when you see that, yeah, that's the one reflects the baby's face, and then so she sees that, and those are the moments, learning opportunity for me too, to realize that yeah, representation really matters. And then when that happens, then really the magic happens. And when you witness those moments, then that's the energy for me to come back to work the following day. Yeah, it's really simple as that.

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: That's so true, Mai. I think in the work that we do, and anytime you're working with people, there's high highs and low lows. Sometimes I think we've all had that, "What am I doing? Why? Oh," just at the end of a really hard day. But I totally agree. There's nothing that matches that dopamine hit of a kid coming back to the library and telling you, "Oh my gosh, the book you gave me, I stayed up reading it and I couldn't put it down, and I can't believe you knew exactly what I wanted." And that's when I'm like, "Okay, I'm definitely doing the right job. Okay, I'm in it. I'm going to..." Yeah, that feedback that you get, and it's not all the time.

 But I think just doing this work, it feels important for us to be changing what libraries look like and what they mean for kids and who gets to see themselves in books and who gets to spend time in the library and who's paying fines and who's not allowed to do this or that. I think if we want to make those changes, I think committee work is important and changing policies is important, but that boots-on-the-ground, personal interaction with our patrons is making a big difference too, so I'm going to keep doing it.

Mai Takahashi: Yeah. And then to add to that, we get to be the process or part of this who gets to tell the stories, who gets to hear the stories? And then again, from the communities traditionally, historically underserved or underrepresented, so those communities' voices, they can be on the book and then they can be read by those people, and then that we can be part of that whole movement, and that's the passion or that's the motivation.

Ericka Brunson-...: Thank you so much for sharing that. Thank you just so much for being here and for all of the perspective that you have added to this conversation. I definitely had some teary moments there at the end because that dopamine hit, that resonates with me. When you are feeling those low lows, and it's usually during a particularly just arduous time, that some of the most beautiful moments are created and those reminders of that is why we are here, that is what keeps us going.

 So thank you, thank you for the important work that you're doing to change the narrative around representation and whose stories get to be told and shared in our books, in our materials, in our spaces. It is just such a pleasure to have been able to have this conversation with you too. And I am rooting on the ALSC EDI committee. I am so excited to see all of the places that that committee and that work is going to lead.

Mai Takahashi: Yay! Thank you.

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: Our work, we're continuing work that has already been started by other awesome people who came before, but we're hoping to be a launchpad for exciting changes to come.

Ericka Brunson-...: Thank you.

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: Thank you both. Thank you, all three of you. Thank you.

Constance Palai...: Yeah, thank you. Stay warm!

Ericka Brunson-...: Yeah, stay warm and stay safe out there.

Mai Takahashi: Yeah!

Ayn Reyes Fraze...: Thank you.

Ericka Brunson-...: That was such a great conversation and I'm so happy that we got to do that together, Constance.

Constance Palai...: I am too. It's really nice to hear their perspective.

Ericka Brunson-...: Oh, absolutely. And I just think working respectively in a school library like yourself, and working in a public library serving youth, so much of that conversation really resonated with me and also our work on the EDI and Anti-Racism Committee, I know that we share those goals of hopefully committees like this not needing to exist, and that's a future that I think is worth working for.

Constance Palai...: That struck me too, that I really felt so supported that there were other people doing the same thing, and especially talking about school libraries because I feel like I get missed sometimes in the big library story.

Ericka Brunson-...: Yeah, yeah. It's something that I know that we're really focusing on with the Oregon Library Association, as well as other associations across the nation on how to better serve those special libraries, our school library staff, academic library staff, and make sure that everybody has those support systems in place to help really amplify the work that they're doing.

 I want to switch gears here. We usually like to end our podcast with a call to action or a challenge for our listeners, and we're going to do something a little bit different. I really was struck by the responses of Ayn and Mai to our last question of what keeps their fire lit in this profession. It was very inspiring for me, and particularly at this moment in time in my life, I think it really helped me put things into perspective about what makes me get up every day, what keeps me going.nd having that moment and time to reflect on that was so beneficial.

 So we're hopeful that our listeners can take time to think about what it is that keeps their fire lit, what keeps them going in this profession, or maybe it's your personal life. What is your why and what keeps you getting up every day and pushing forward?

Constance Palai...: I know being able to talk about when you finally find that book that that child, when their eyes light up and they come back and say, "Oh, that was such a good book. Do you have something else like it?" or, "I saw myself," or, "thank you for giving me that book," that really does so much. And sometimes I forget what my why is, but that's a lot of it.

Ericka Brunson-...: So true, so true. And I really liked how Ayn, how did she put it? The dopamine hit, and I know that dopamine hit so well, and it just really recharges something inside of you.

So thank you again, Constance, for joining me for this episode, and I look forward to-

Constance Palai...: Oh, it was an honor.

Ericka Brunson-...: Yeah, I hope we can do it again.

Constance Palai...: Me too. Thank you, Ericka.

Ericka Brunson-...: Thank you and thank you to our listeners.


This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the State Library of Oregon.

Este proyecto ha sido posible en parte por el Instituto de Servicios de Museos y Bibliotecas a través de la Ley de Servicios de Biblioteca y Tecnológia (LSTA), administrada por la Biblioteca Estado de Oregón.


We would like to take time to acknowledge historical injustices. We recognize Oregon was established as a white sanctuary state with the intent to exclude African American and Black people on ancestral lands stolen from dispossessed indigenous peoples. We recognize and honor the members of federally recognized tribes and unrecognized tribes of Oregon. We honor Native American ancestors, past, present, and future whose land we still occupy. This acknowledgement aims to deconstruct false histories, correct the historical record, and disrupt genocidal practices by refocusing attention to the original people of the land we inhabit, the slave trade enforced labor that built this country and to the oppressive social systems interwoven into the fabric of our national and regional heritage. We ask that you take a moment to acknowledge and reflect as well.

[Outro Music Playing]