Guest Post: Librarians Without Borders: Libraries Transforming Communities


The following is a guest post by NPSIG volunteer Mary Marques. Mary currently works with REFORMA Northeast. More information, including links to her various projects, is included at the bottom of the post.


With the phrase “Free Access to Knowledge” the 11th Annual REFORMA Northeast Joint Mini Conference entitled: “Librarians Without Borders: Libraries Transforming Communities” opened the professional development session in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library (NYPL) to the librarians of the six states that conform this chapter –Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island– bringing into the conversation success stories and programs that public and academic libraries are putting into practice in order to reach out bigger audiences with the main purpose of promoting library programs and free services to all.

REFORMA Northeast Chapter members and officers (L-R)  Miguel Garcia-Colón, Mary Marques, Loida Garcia-Febo, Alexandra Gomez, Libbhy Romero, Tess Tobin and Elizabeth Garcia.
REFORMA Northeast Chapter members and officers (L-R) Miguel Garcia-Colón, Mary Marques, Loida Garcia-Febo, Alexandra Gomez, Libbhy Romero, Tess Tobin and Elizabeth Garcia.

The New York Public Library (NYPL) located in the city of New York, United States, was the host place of this mini conference where at least fifty librarians that belong to the REFORMA Northeast (RNE) chapter participated in this professional event. The program started with a guided library tour by Jason Baumann, Coordinator of Collection Assessment, Humanities, and LGBT Collections, to a few special collections –such as the History of Tobacco– that NYPL has to offer to the public. After the guided tour and the welcoming presentations of the current president of RNE, Elizabeth Garcia and the Acting Director of Library Services NYPL, Michelle Misner, the conference program opened the conversation regarding the best practices on providing library services to all diverse groups beyond the library walls.

The keynote speaker of the program Mirta Ojito— Journalist and Author of her latest book the Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town— highlighted the importance role of libraries in the society at large providing not only “free access to knowledge” to all but also encouraging global citizens to validate their right to exercise “freedom” throughout the selection of books. Furthermore, reflecting on her recent book publication, Ojito’s mentioned the need to diminish the discrimination as a negative path in our society. In her book the Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town, the author reflects on the tragic hate murder of the Ecuadorian Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue, Long Island, raising the concern of the racial climate in the American society.

Following along the main topic on how libraries are transforming communities, five presentations continued the conversation: Libros y Libertad: Freedom through Books for Unaccompanied Minors, Building Community through Conversation: Diverse Books to Engage Readers, Transforming Information Literacy to Support Institutional Urban Mission, Serving  Multicultural Communities: Best Practices from New Jersey’s Public Libraries, and Microagressions: Small Actions that Are a Big Deal. The presenters highlighted the need to reach out to the underserved and diverse multicultural community with the purpose of building a strong community partnership with neighborhood organizations; in addition to the creation of mobile spaces where librarians can provide a mobile reference service in order to accommodate the customers’ library needs.

The 2015 REFORMA Northeast Joint Mini Conference “Librarians Without Borders: Libraries Transforming Communities”  brought together the ethnic caucuses of ALA: American Indian Library Association (AILA), Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA), REFORMA, The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking (REFORMA), Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT), and The Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA). The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public library hosted this professional event that gathered librarians from the REFORMA Northeast Area to share experiences about programs that are being taken in place and to broaden the network of opportunities. Furthermore, this conference was sponsored by Lectorum Publications and Bilingual Publications and they provided information about the latest Spanish books available in the market.

According to the conference website, the main goal of the professional event “Librarians Without Borders: Libraries Transforming Communities”  was to provide the “Librarians [the opportunity to] … foster a sense of community beyond the wall of their libraries. They seek partnerships to strengthen the libraries roles as a strong community resource and create innovative outreach services to engage their communities.” For additional information about the conference, keynote speaker and presenters please visit RNEJMC2015.


marymarques Mary Marques works as a reference librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP), United States. She serves on the Free Library’s New American Committee and as REFORMA Northeast Vice President/ President elected for 2014-2016 period. In addition, she supports REFORMA NE as the State Coordinator for Pennsylvania. Mary holds a Master Degree in Library and Information Science from Clarion University, United States, a  second Master Degree in Bilingual/Bicultural Studies from La Salle University, United States, and a Bachelor Degree in Communication Science, Journalism, from Inca Garcilaso de la Vega University, Peru. Mary loves to travel and to learn about other cultures. She enjoys capturing special moments with her creative photography. If you would like to contact her, please write to marquesm@freelibrary.org.

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