Moving Forward, Not Backward

Editor’s note: We are pleased to welcome Cynthia Mari Orozco to the ACRLog team. Cynthia is the Equity + OER Librarian at East Los Angeles College and PhD Candidate in Information Studies at UCLA. She is a former resident librarian at Loyola Marymount University and tenure-track librarian at California State University Long Beach before moving into community college librarianship. Her interests include OER and open pedagogy, information literacy, and scholarly communications in community colleges.

I graduated from library school in 2011, and I recall library workers bemoaning the overuse of the term “21st century library” in publication and presentation titles. At the time, I mostly agreed with this criticism. However, having now been in the profession for over 10 years, it sometimes feels like some spaces are not operating in the present century.

But I get it. When I started my online MLIS at San José State University, I remember thinking, “Let’s try this out for a semester. If it doesn’t work out, we can apply to an in-person program.” I had previously attempted to take an online course at my local community college and failed miserably. The course wasn’t hard, I don’t think; I just forgot to sign into the learning management system (LMS) and do the work. Entering the SJSU program, I was now confronted with another LMS and many new technologies that I had long resisted or never even heard of: teleconferencing, blogging, wikis, and Second Life, among others. In this first semester, I also started my first and current Twitter account! I lurked for at least two years before actively tweeting, or at least attempting to tweet. These technologies were all new and scary to me, and it took years to develop the comfort and ease that I now am privileged to have. Through SJSU, I learned how to thrive in an online environment by communicating synchronously and asynchronously, working across time zones and geographies, working on projects with various groups of people, and developing a curiosity for utilizing and assessing new technologies to improve my library work.

In early 2020, I was pulled into a Zoom meeting in my library not because I was involved with this group in any way but rather to connect to and facilitate Zoom in one of our classrooms. I logged into my Zoom account as no one else in the room had one at the time, I brought my microphone as the computer had none, and I pushed buttons as requested by the group. While slightly annoyed at the time, again, I’ve had the privilege of having years of experience using teleconferencing for my work. And throughout the last several years, I’ve witnessed all of my colleagues rise to the occasion to work effectively online with even the Zoom resisters now able to fully use Zoom on their own. I’m incredibly proud of my colleagues, and I have been looking forward to seeing how our experience in working remotely and providing remote services will affect our work from this point forward.

At East Los Angeles College, we have a smaller campus 10 miles away in the city of South Gate, where I often work. The South Gate campus library is one large room with one librarian and one library technician who both work at a public-facing desk during all operating hours. Our campus conversations often include advocating for equitable student services at this campus, which is often overshadowed by our Monterey Park campus (known by most as the “Main Campus,” which further perpetuates the relative importance of this campus). Do you know where a lot of this advocacy work happens? In meetings! In conversations with the ELAC community! And through teleconferencing, employees at South Gate have been able to attend meetings that one would otherwise have to miss when tied to a physical location at a specific time. While the pandemic has admittedly been very isolating, remote meetings have raised attendance and participation, an amazing opportunity for advocacy and diversity of thought.

I see our campus starting to revert to our default in-person modalities and assumptions that everything in-person is “better.” Advocacy for our smaller South Gate campus is just one example of how online technology has allowed us to improve our work, thus improving campus conditions for our students. It would be an utter shame to dismiss the progress we’ve made over the last several years. It’s also worth remembering that 12-hour days on Zoom is not normal and probably way too much! But it also doesn’t mean that we ought to completely discard remote or hybrid options for meetings and conversations.

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