Recently, we spotlighted Amy Bradley, one of the two inaugural ILP residents. This week, we talked to Yesenia Villar-Villalobos, who is from East Los Angeles and received her M.L.I.S. from UCLA. She became a librarian to help raise awareness—especially within the Latino population—that the library is one of our greatest learning resources. The Innovation Leadership Program (ILP), is a collaboration between the Library Foundation and Los Angeles Public Library and the first of its kind to offer librarian residencies in a major public library. The program partners midcareer librarians with recently graduated librarians to address the challenges facing the 21st century public library, and brings together new professionals with their knowledge of cutting edge information science and technology and pairs them with seasoned librarians with their knowledge of Los Angeles communities and the library profession to create an exciting synergy.
Tell us a bit about yourself—where you are from, what are some of your interests, and how did you first decide that you wanted to be a librarian?
I’m from East Los Angeles and currently live in City Terrace, which is a small neighborhood in the unincorporated area of East L.A. I graduated from Cal State L.A. with a B.A. in Liberal Studies and Women’s Studies. My “interests” are trying to manage my work schedule while raising my daughters, Luna who is 5 and Lluvia who is 1 1/2. Thankfully I have a supportive husband who helps a great deal. Aside from that I’m the treasure and co-founding member of the City Terrace Friends of the Library group and I’m in charge of fundraising through Amazon book sales. I’m also a foodie in training and always looking for unique, fresh, and healthy dining in L.A. I became a librarian to help the people from my community access information.
What has been the experience of your residency thus far?
We are a 6-month pilot project. Our experience will help shape the 2-year residency that follows us. We are bringing awareness of the changing nature of libraries and pushing limits to hopefully open doors for other librarians to take risks. Our daily schedules vary greatly. We are either observing meeting, departments at Central, following our mentors as they perform outreach, try frantically to complete the assignments given to us, all while trying to design and implement an “innovative” program of our choice. To say the least, it has been extremely busy. It has also been an extremely wonderful learning exercise. I’ve learned and met so many great people who are helping shape my performance as a librarian. I cannot thank LAPL and the Library Foundation enough for affording me this opportunity.
What are you learning about modern urban libraries as you work in the different branches across Los Angeles?
I began my residency at West Valley, spending 4-weeks there and another 4-weeks at Central. I’m currently at Echo Park, but before this I subbed and spent time at R.L. Stevenson, Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park, El Serreno, Arroyo Seco, and Benjamin Franklin. Each of these branches function differently based on their patrons needs. R.L. Stevenson for example is a “sleepy” branch, the reference desk is relatively calm. It’s very much a community library. While Echo Park is a larger branch as is much busier with a faster pace.
What are you learning from the librarians you are working with?
What am I not learning! Library school taught me theory based practice. From the librarians I’m learning more practical knowledge.
What surprises have you encountered on-site?
When I subbed at R.L. Stevenson the kids in the community often viewed the librarians similar to teachers. They called me ‘Miss’ and asked me for homework help the same way they would ask their teacher. A moment I remember fondly is when a boy I had been helping the previous days brought his friend for me to help. While out in the stacks his friend asked me ‘Is it true you’re his librarian?’ Which I understood as ‘Is it true you’re a librarian.’ I responded and he clarified, ‘No, HIS librarian, he said you’re his librarian. He said he comes to get help only from you.’ It was a great feeling to know that I was helpful and that he appreciated my dedication.
What is your vision of the library in 50 years?
I can’t even imagine what the library will be like in 50 years. Technology is changing so rapidly that there’s no telling what the possibilities are. I’m sure the libraries of the 1960s never imagined a digital library.