An Advocate for Diversity and Justice
(Written for a Theological Librarianship course)
Theological libraries are spaces where people’s cultural differences can be starting points to learn how different ethnicities, cultures, and countries worship and express their theological thoughts. As the theological tides shift from monocultural to multicultural, and as knowledge becomes more globalized in our high tech and digital world, local, regional, and ethnic culture play a vital role in our individualized and communal theologies. It embeds itself in the way we practice religion, how we pray, how we eat, how we commune with one another, and in how we communicate our thoughts and feelings. All of my goals from this course harmonize with my own personal life goals to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [our] Lord (Micah 6:8).” Within each goal, I feel called to advocate for diversity and justice as a librarian of color.
A fellow librarian friend of mine told me that she found her political work within her librarianship. This is the way it is for me as well, and now I also find my spiritual calling enacted within my profession. One of my goals, if I were to work within a theological library, would be to serve as a mentor for students of color, particularly women and queer theologians. I would support these students in their research, encouraging them to publish and present as much as possible. For in order to turn the tide of who is creating theological materials, students with identities outside of the white, male, and heterosexual norms need to participate in scholarship. I would host weekly informal office-hours/tea-time in order to both engage students, as well as to get to know them. Perhaps these relationship building will lead to more students with interests in working for the library and eventually becoming theological librarians themselves.
While I cannot say that I am on a specific path to becoming a theological librarian (though I would not be opposed to becoming one if the opportunity arose), I do however see the importance of leveraging my role as a librarian and archivist within my home church community. I grew up in a historic Japanese American Baptist church in Southern California with a specific history tied in with World War II, resulting in the displacement and forced relocation of its congregation. To assist in formulating a proper history of Gardena Valley Baptist Church (it just had its 100th anniversary), interviews of past ministers, staff, and church members would be conducted to add insight to archival photographs. Gardena, California is one of the largest home to Japanese Americans in the United States, so this church history would document a specific ethnic and cultural enclave’s theological growth.
In my current situation, I am more a full-time mother and housewife than a professional librarian (though I am hoping that fulfilling my MLIS changes this situation), so I am not currently working in a place that provides library services. Though I do find myself being called upon my friends and family to provide them with informal reference and information services. I am an alumnus of a missions organization, Mission Year, in which young people live and work in urban communities for a year, while living communally and taking temporary vows of poverty. Supporting current team members commonly means finding them theological resources that speak to their ethnic and cultural needs. For instance, a team member just inquired about seeking materials of Native Hawaiian Christian theologians doing justice work. I was able to find a few articles and ministers who fit this profile. This is my ongoing informal library practice, and it is my goal to continue using my skills as a librarian, and now as a theological librarian, to support these young missionaries.
As I venture down the road of becoming an academic librarian, I know full well that I will have to overcome my fear of “publish, or perish.” I hope that in a year’s time, I can revise one of my strongest papers from library school to submit for peer-review. While this is my most dreaded goal, it is one of my realistic goals to succeed and stay relevant in the profession. While I may hold a rather unique perspective of being an Asian American artist, mother, zine-maker, and librarian, I am held back by fear of being rejected, as well as a fear that people won’t care for the issues I hold dear. To accomplish this goal, I will have find a fellow peer librarian to read through my essay work to give me constructive criticism on my flow of thoughts and theories. I also wish to build and strengthen a few professional relationships, in the hopes of someday presenting alongside them in a conference panel. Because one of the biggest hurdles in this goal are my own fears and insecurities, I hope that by gathering a few colleagues that I trust with my work, I can build confidence while refining my scholarship.
Whether I work with theologians of color, write local church histories, provide reference to young urban missionaries, or publish my own scholarship, I hope to be used to broaden and diversified the Kingdom of God. The more variety and diversity within the walls of the library, the more diversity there is in scholarship, and in our expressions and worship of God.