REFORMA in the Nation’s Capital

What events does REFORMA National do at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference? Read on to find out what I learned as a first-time attendee.

iSchool’s ALA Travel Grant

Back in February, iSchool students Ana Arevalo, Guadalupe Martinez, and I were awarded travel grants to go to the American Library’s Association’s Annual June Conference (ALAAC) in Washington, D.C. As members and officers of the REFORMA SJSU iSchool’s Student & Alumni Group, the conference posed an opportunity to connect with members of REFORMA National. Dr. Michele L. Villagran, advisor for the group, reached out to Nicanor Diaz, the former president for REFORMA, who put us in touch with Maria Estrella, REFORMA’s Chair of the Children’s and Young Adults Committee and Lucia Gonzalez, current president of the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC). Maria and Lucia were spearheading the two main events organized by REFORMA at the ALAAC: Noche de Cuentos and the Pura Belpré Celebración. The three of us were charged with helping out as much as we could with these two events.

Getting There

For me personally, a lot of stars had to align to attend. The conference was a six-day opportunity to learn and network with professionals in the industry. As a mother of two young kids who works part-time, I was lucky the conference was scheduled when I could go. Family support descended on my home to help with the kiddos and thankfully everyone managed to stay healthy through an uptick in COVID cases prior to my departure. That said, I almost didn’t make it. My connecting flight from N.J. was cancelled, subsequently leading to a 18-hour delay and a sleepless, shivering night on a cot in the Newark Airport. After being tenacious about getting added to two standby lines the next day, and waiting out another plane delay due to mechanical difficulties, I was thrilled to finally set foot in D.C. After changing the clothes I’d been in for the past 31 hours, and taking the best shower of my life at the Eaton Hotel, I was ready to tackle the orientation of Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Thank you, coffee.


ALAAC took up nearly all of the convention center and various ALA divisions and affiliates (e.g., ALSC, YALSA, REFORMA, etc.) held several major events at the surrounding hotels. In addition to the convention center, organizers from REFORMA National scheduled activities at the Library of Congress, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, the Renaissance Hotel and the Hilton Garden Inn. It was great to visit so many different areas of downtown.

After picking up my conference badge with Guadalupe and Ana and personalizing it with colorful free ribbons that tagged me as “First Time Attendee,” “Student,” “She/Her/Hers,” we noticed that there were no group ribbons, (e.g., “REFORMA”, “ALSC”). What a missed opportunity! Identification on an individual’s badge made it easier to strike up a conversation with another person at the conference and network.

Schedule of Activities

The types of events at ALAAC vary. There are meetings, presentations, major speakers, panels/programs, along with awards, ceremonies, and receptions. Here were all the events associated with REFORMA:

REFORMA Meetings and Events
*All times are listed in the Eastern Daylight Time Zone*

Friday, June 24th

1:00 PM – 3:00 PM – REFORMA Executive Committee (EC) Meeting, Washington Convention Center, Room 142
3:30 PM – 5:00 PM – Tarde de Cuentos, Library of Congress, Hispanic Reading Room

Saturday, June 25th

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM – REFORMA All Committees Meeting, Renaissance Hotel, River Birch B room
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM – REFORMA Board of Directors (BOD) Meeting, Renaissance Hotel, River Birch B room
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM – REFORMA Gala (Purchase tickets here). Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Conference Center 4th floor. 901 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

Sunday, June 26th

1:00 PM – 3:00 PM – Pura Belpré Celebración, Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel, Potomac Ballroom Salon 1
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM – REFORMA Social Hour Meet & Greet, Hilton Garden Inn, “the Third Rail” bar

Monday, June 27th

1:00 PM – 3:00 PM – REFORMA General Membership Meeting, Renaissance Hotel, Meeting Room B

ALA Annual 2022. (n.d.). REFORMA [Website].

I attended all of the scheduled REFORMA events on June 24TH and June 26th.In addition, I went to a committee planning breakfast for the Pura Belpré Celebración on June 25th that was not listed on the above schedule. Along with the REFORMA events, I witnessed several other activities at the conference – a few of which are featured in this post.

Despite the conference spanning six days, most of the activities were packed into the schedule on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It is interesting to note that the conference fee does not cover everything. There were banquets and brunches, as well as specialized ticketed trainings that range in price from $10 – $249. For example, the REFORMA Gala was a ticketed event which raised money for scholarships/grants. A few of the events were also by invitation only. Some activities sold out well in advance of the conference. Free ticketed activities (e.g., walking tours, panels) were sprinkled throughout the conference schedule too and easily became unavailable due to popularity. Even though there was an official ALAAC app, some events didn’t make it in the complete schedule (e.g., Noche de Cuentos). Therefore, it was smart to check division and affiliate websites/social media to make sure nothing of interest was missed. Vendors did their own panels and author talks in the exhibit hall and that final schedule was printed and given to each attendee at check-in. With so much going on at the same time it was hard to manage feelings of FOMO.


Many ALA groups hosted official board and committee meetings at the annual conference. For some, this may be the only time they meet in-person all year long to discuss group operations. At some meetings, attendees were encouraged to come and hear updates while other groups restricted access to only necessary members. REFORMA National welcomed anyone interested to attend their meetings.

REFORMA Executive Committee (EC) Meeting

When I showed up to REFORMA’S EC’s Meeting I was greeted with a pleasant surprise. REFORMA SJSU iSchool’s Student & Alumni Group founding Vice President, Essy Barroso-Ramirez, was attending all the way from Santa Cruz, CA. She is now an iSchool alum and continues to be active in REFORMA. I spied her again at other events and it was great to meet her at the conference.

The biggest section of business at the EC Meeting was the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between REFORMA National and REFORMA’s Educational Foundation (REF). Close to 20 recognition certificates were given to significant REF members. The two organizations have goals to offer educational scholarships and professional developments for REFORMA members and raise their shared fund up to $100,000.

Also discussed was the need for a more volunteers for the “Children in Crisis” campaign. “Children in Crisis” is a program to help out youth being detained at the US/Mexico border and REFORMA has been actively working toward getting books into the hands of these children.

The EC Meeting also discussed the ALA’s taskforce’s review of ALA governance. There has been a push streamline desicion-making and shift control back to the ALA Board (a small group of people) as opposed to having the ALA Council (a large group of people) make decisions by vote. The effort has yet to be approved by membership. Simplifying operations was the aim but at both meetings people expressed concerns that representation of particular affiliates may be left out of ALA business.

After the meeting, we all gathered to walk approximately a mile to the Library of Congress (LOC) for Tarde de Cuentos. On the walk it was great to socialize and meet other REFORMA members and learn how they were serving their communities.


Noche de Cuentos

Normally this event is held in the evening at ALAAC but this year it was scheduled for the afternoon, so it was rebranded as “Tarde de Cuentos”. The morning of the event, Roe v. Wade was overturned and security near the LOC (adjacent to the Supreme Courthouse) was uncertain. Protestors swarmed the surrounding area to demonstrate and by the afternoon the crowd had only increased. Alda Allina Migoni, librarian at the LOC and REFORMA’s Member-at-Large, safely led all of us through protestors to the LOC. Emotions were high amongst the crowd, and in our own cohort, yet it was amazing to witness peaceful democracy in action. What comes from this decision by the high court, and its impact on the reproductive rights of U.S. women, will be its own future story.

Tarde de Cuentos was honored to present two performers this year. Melissa Strova-Valencia and Jorge Tetle Argueta both shared their stories in the Hispanic Reading room at the Library of Congress (LOC). Meli is an actress, ventriloquist, and storyteller who featured a cuento her father, Edgar Strova A., wrote about a beaver and a squirrel. The tale was expertly performed with wonderful audience participation. Jorge is an author, poet, and literary activist who featured a trilingual book about the power of the water cycle, leaving the audience with strong sense that the story was a metaphor for the human race and how our differences as a species should not be pitted against each other. Both performers entertained the crowd primarily in Spanish. The cuentos were a pleasant and vibrant distraction from the backdrop taking place outside. The event was captured on video by Ana, Guadalupe, and myself. Feel free to check it out on the REFORMA SJSU iSchool’s Student & Alumni Group YouTube channel  –


Maria Hinojosa

One of the headliners for the conference was Maria Hinojosa who is best known as being a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Former REFORMA president, Nicanor Diaz, spoke with Hinojosa prior to her speech and was able to advocate for more awareness and support for the “Children In Crisis” campaign. This became central talking point in Hinojosa’s address. In her speech, Hinojosa recalled a traumatic incident from her youth where her family was traveling from Mexico City to Chicago on business. During their border crossing in Texas, Hinojosa was nearly separated from her family by agents and her mother in particular is still haunted by the incident.

Hinojosa went on to praise the work of REFORMA several times during her speech for their work so far on the “Children in Crisis” campaign. Here are some memorable quotes from Hinojosa’s address:

“Libraries pass the mic by passing on the books”

“Librarians and journalists are arm-in-arm fighting for democracy”

“Libraries gave me the place where I could be an intellectual badass”


Award Ceremonies/Receptions

SJSU iSchool Reception and Poster Session

For about a decade, the SJSU iSchool organizes a reception and poster session at ALAAC. It’s an opportunity for current students, alumni, faculty and guests to meet and socialize during the conference. Several students and alumni also had posters on display at the event that featured their current work.

Our very own REFORMA SJSU iSchool’s Student & Alumni Group’s founding President, Rosa Rodriguez, presented a poster on her work at California State University, San Marcos. Her poster discussed how the library pivoted to offer a Library Virtual Open House for first year and transfer undergraduate students. The event garnered positive feedback from students who shared how much they enjoyed the interactive structure of the event and the various student resources.

I participated in the poster-session and presented work I did as an intern for Carlsbad City Library. During my internship, I submitted the entire fiction picture book collection through some analysis tools to gauge what sort of representation the library had with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). My poster shared information specifically for the Georgina Cole Branch. After running this audit, I found that the majority of the picture books featured stories with animals and/or represent the white, cis-gender, neurotypical, abled community. The diverse racial demographics of the Carlsbad community total 30.7% but only 18.1% of the library’s fiction picture book collection flagged DEI content. Additionally, the two largest non-white demographics in the community, Hispanic/Latino and Asian, mainly had stories representing the beauty and heritage of their cultures but not very many oppression and resilience stories. The analysis was meant to give the Carlsbad City Library a sense of where representation gaps exist in their picture book collection.

The reception was the best networking event I attended at the conference and it was nice to meet several faculty members in person and socialize with other current and former students. Another side-benefit is that Dr. Chow brought his Oculus VR set to share and I finally got an opportunity to don one these amazing devices and see its capabilities.

Pura Belpré Celebración

Two divisions of ALA, ALSC and Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and one affiliate, REFORMA, collaborated to put the Pura Belpré Celebración together this year. The day before the event, planning members from REFORMA met over breakfast to discuss the logistics for the event. We also got to hear the origin story of how the event was created by founding committee members and some of the challenges and red tape REFORMA faced at the onset to get the green light for the event. 2022 marks the 26th year anniversary of the Pura Belpré Celebración and all the planning members agreed that this was quite an accomplishment. Many long-time planners remarked that the authors/illustrators that have been honored over the years have now been subsequently honored for other youth literary awards. They were pleased that stories representing the Latinx and Spanish-speaking culture are achieving larger audiences as a result.

Guadalupe, Ana, and I were tasked with setting up the decorations at the author/illustrator tables and recording the event. We also helped pack up the books at the end for “Children in Crisis.”

From start to finish this award ceremony had the best structure I saw at the conference. Thirteen authors/illustrators were honored. Everyone was allowed a speech, including both honorees and winners. Many of the authors shared personal stories of inequity that were compelling and heart-wrenching. Following the awards, talented youth performers from the Bailes de Mi Tierra company performed traditional dances from Jalisco, Mexico. Following, the performance everyone held hands and sang “De Colores.” All the youth performers received copies of the honored books. Authors/Illustrators sold and signed copies of their work afterwards. All remaining book copies were donated to “Children in Crisis.” What I liked most about this event that honored Latinx children’s writers/artists was that not only were youth present at the ceremony, the intended audience for these books also got free copies. After 26 years it felt like the organizers were dialed in to all the ways youth literature can be celebrated. Feel free to check out the winner and honoree speeches on the REFORMA SJSU iSchool’s Student & Alumni Group YouTube channel  –

REFORMA Meet & Greet

This was an informal gathering that allowed members of REFORMA to socialize. I attended the event and saw many of the same people who collaborated on Noche de Cuentos and the Pura Belpré Celebración. Additionally, I socialized with an author and another scholar who collaborated on research with Dr. Michele Villagran. It was nice to have another opportunity to get to know more members of REFORMA.


One of the most amazing and unexpected benefits of walking the exhibitor floor at ALAAC was all the free books and author signings. I bought two books from Arte Publico Press because I wanted a copy of Jorge Tetle Argueta’s Agua, Agualita. With my membership to REFORMA, I was able to buy two books for the price of one and get both copies signed by their respective authors. I shipped home two boxes of books for my K-6th patrons to enjoy, all personalized and signed by acclaimed youth authors/illustrators. I acquired more books for our school at this conference than was purchased by our district during the 2020-2021 school year. Fortunately, our budget has increased since then and we are able to purchase more books. Still, I can’t believe the haul I get to share with students when the summer ends.

Grant Coverage

If you have the desire to attend a library conference, I highly recommend pursuing a travel grant from the iSchool. You can do this as an iSchool student and/or as a student leader. The grant covered my airfare, transportation, hotel, and a daily food stipend. Students taking three units in the semester can apply to get the iSchool’s grant. Separately, leadership groups are also encouraged to attend their specialized conferences. REFORMA National Conference (RNC) is usually held every two years. The last one was held in November of 2021. We learned at ALAAC that REFORMA will not be doing another RNC until 2025. In 2023, REFORMA National will be doing a smaller event called REFORMA Institute.

Sometimes the iSchool will also have last minute opportunities as well to get a grant and attend a conference. For example, iSchool students could get a last-minute travel grant to ALAAC if they committed to a half-day of volunteering at the iSchool booth on the exhibit floor.

All in all, it was a memorable and valuable experience that future students should strongly consider pursuing. We are currently looking to replace many officer positions for the REFORMA SJSU iSchool’s Student & Alumni Group. If you are interested in nominating yourself and being a leader for this wonderful group, please fill out this form –

Sarah Wilson

Sarah is a youth services library professional who intends to graduate from the MLIS iSchool program in Fall of 2022. She was the managing editor for the Student Research Journal ’20-‘21, which values the voices of library and information science student researchers. Sarah has been a member of the iSchool REFORMA student group since its inception. Sarah is dedicated to REFORMA’s mission of promoting Spanish literacy in the information profession. Using skills she learned in INFO 132: Spanish for Careers she served the information needs of elementary school students in both Encinitas, California and Xalapa Mexico through her work as a distance learning librarian. She also paired educators virtually from both Monterrey, Mexico and Encinitas, California during Encinitas Union School District’s Read Across America, Really! program in ‘21, which broadens the notion that Reading Across America can expand beyond U.S. borders. She holds a B.A. in Theatre from the University of California, San Diego and is a Library Media Assistant at an elementary school.

2 thoughts on “REFORMA in the Nation’s Capital

  1. Great and thorough summary of the conference! So glad you found it valuable. As a former REFORMA president who is now retired, it warms my heart to see the good work of the organization continue, especially in regards to the recruitment of new members such as yourself. If you choose it, REFORMA will become your second familia through the duration of your career as a librarian. Buena suerte!

    1. Albert Milo, thank you so much for your welcoming words! I appreciate your kind response to my blog post. I have learned so much from this organization. I will continue to promote it to other information professionals in my network. I plan to stay associated with REFORMA in my career and serve the organization’s mission in the work that I do.

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