Content warning: mass shooting, death
Bear with me; this might be all over the place.
Despite its name, East Los Angeles College (ELAC) is a community college located in Monterey Park, a city in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley. But yes, ELAC was once part of unincorporated East Los Angeles before being annexed in the early 1970s. East LA is well known as a largely Hispanic community, over 95% according to the 2020 Census, while Monterey Park has a majority Asian American population at 65%. As a Japanese Mexican American, I feel right at home here. I was hired as a librarian at ELAC in 2016 and have grown to love these communities. The ‘community’ part in community college is crucial. Our students are majority locals and understanding the community and my students’ local context largely informs my work as a librarian. For example, I’ve been advocating for using OER to appeal to local college contexts and diverse ways of knowing the world rather than assume one textbook can work across all geographic locations. I love to incorporate the community in my library instruction, whether it’s teaching information literacy with an example information need like, “Where can I find the best xiao long bao near ELAC?” to searching databases on environmental racism in Southeast Los Angeles, as we also have a campus in the city of South Gate.
On January 21, 2023, Monterey Park experienced a mass shooting that took the lives of eleven people and injured nine others at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio late at night on the eve of the Lunar New Year. It is also the worst mass shooting to occur in Los Angeles County. The Monterey Park and AAPI communities are devastated, in what should be a joyous time in ringing in the new year. My heart goes out to the victims of this tragedy, their friends and family, and those impacted in the community. Never forget: My Nhan. Lilian Li. Xiujuan Yu. Muoi Ung. Hong Jian. Yu Kao. Chia Yau. Valentino Alvero. Wen Yu. Ming Ma. Diana Tom. The Half Moon Bay shootings occurred less than 48 hours later, claiming the lives of seven: Yetao Bing, Qizhong Cheng, Zhishen Liu, Jingzhi Lu, Marciano Martinez Jimenez, Jose Romero Perez, and Aixiang Zhang. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 40 mass shootings in the US in 2023 alone, and we’re only in January.
This isn’t the post I intended to write this week, but I felt the need to say something. The prevalence of mass shootings in the United States is absolutely unacceptable. And as a library worker, I hate that one of my biggest fears and, in my opinion, a bona fide workplace hazard is the possibility of a mass shooting. Statistically speaking, the possibility of an active shooter remains quite low, but tell that to my anxiety. In a recent meeting regarding the design of a new library space, the library team was presented with an open concept library floor plan, which most of us immediately flagged as a safety issue (and is also terrible for acoustics). The design team responded by enthusiastically declaring this to be something that most libraries want these days. Major facepalm. How is that an acceptable response? I’m a big fan of aesthetics in libraries, and admittedly a lot of libraries are cold, unwelcoming, and sometimes just outright ugly; however, I’m tired of decisions related to safety being made by those who won’t physically be in these spaces, whether it’s the builders or the administrators. I’ve done my fair share of researching protective design concepts for active shooter scenarios, and I’m just saying–I’m not asking for Kevlar wall panels or intrusive surveillance of students. However, I do want to be able to lock any door from the inside. To have a phone in each instructional classroom. To receive timely crime alerts and annual security reports. And to just overall have a better strategy than to watch the “Run, hide, fight” video…that maybe isn’t even great advice, as some experts recommend dropping the “hide” part to simply, “Run, fight.”
I went to a candlelight vigil on my campus on Wednesday. I appreciated all of the speakers who shared something with our community. There was an immense feeling of love and a desire to keep each other safe. And I really do hope we can keep each other safe and that we have more conversations on how to accomplish this in our respective communities.