Lessons, Ideas, and Resources Gained from Attending RNC IV

REFORMA National Conference (RNC) unites students, professors, researchers, and professionals who share research and ideas to improve services to Latinx, Hispanic, and Spanish-speakers. I had the privilege of attending RNC IV this year thanks to those who generously donated to a scholarship fund that was available to students, librarians, and paraprofessionals. If you were unable to attend, the RNC VII committee is working to make conference proceedings available online in Spring 2022. In the meantime, you can read about the event through my experience at the conference:

The theme of this year’s conference was “Somos el Cambio/We are the Change” and it was well reflected in every session as each presenter shared the work they were doing to create a more inclusive and supportive future. In addition, this year marked REFORMA’s 50th anniversary and the conference included an online Gala celebration. The celebration was hosted by Marga Gomez, and it included a congratulatory video, a beautiful Mariachi performance, an awards ceremony, a panel presentation by REFORMA leaders sharing their hopes and dreams, and a documentary film titled “REFORMA’s Legacy: The First 50 Years”, which, as a clueless newcomer to the REFORMA family, was very helpful to me. Attendees were encouraged to enjoy home-made mixed drinks during the event.

I’m very glad I was able to be present at this event. In addition to attending sessions, the virtual format made it easy to chat with other attendees. I formed connections with many, including some who were situated in other states. Whoova, the platform used to deliver the conference, asked us to share our interests, and, based on this information, grouped us into categories. I was grouped with people interested in archives, dystopian novels, library outreach, information literacy, media literacy, diversity, equity, and inclusion. You could then view other people’s profiles and start a conversation. You could also just browse through the list of attendees and choose to reach out to them based on their profile. Whoova was great because it allowed you to attach your resume to your profile and add an “Open to Work” sticker to your profile picture. I got lucky because I was contacted by an attendee who lived in my same geographical area and after chatting with her, she sent me information about a job opening!

My main takeaway from the experience is that there is a whole community out there of REFORMA members ready to support, connect, teach, and work with you in order to create a more inclusive environment in the library field. Even though the event revolved around increasing and improving services to Latinx, Hispanic, and Spanish-speakers, the overall movement was towards an inclusive and supportive future for all.

Read below to see what I learned from each session. You can click through resources, gain new service ideas, or, in case you are thinking of presenting at the next conference, learn about topics covered at the RNC!

Day 1 of Conference

Session Title: Bridging the Gap: In Support of Women in Librarianship

  • Presenters: Loida Garcia-Febo (Past President of ALA and REFORMA), Zoe Mendelson, Maria Conejo, Pambanisha Whaley, Chippewa M. Thomas, Jaena Alabi, Alicia Monsalve, Millie Gonzalez, Nichelle Hayes, Madeline Peña (Past President of REFORMA), Celia Avila de Santiago, Dr. Michele A. L. Villagran
  • Summary and What I Learned: This session explored factors that undermine the success of and retention of Latinx women in the workplace. Panelists talked about microaggressions and how this can result in feelings of self-doubt, anger, frustration, exhaustion, and isolation. They discussed how in a healthy workplace, people are aware of what constitutes microaggressions, can point out when it happens, can have conversations about microaggressions, and have a system in place to correct the behavior. Panelists offered a clear set of steps for intervening during microaggressions: make the invisible visible by challenging the stereotype or documenting it; disarm the microaggression by describing what is happening or disagreeing with it; educate the offender; and seek external reinforcement or support. A healthy workplace is constantly assessing how well they support colleagues from marginalized communities. SJSU Professor, Dr. Michelle Villagran shared five steps that can be taken to achieve this:
    • 1) Learn from history and move towards equity
    • 2) Do an equity audit or assessment
    • 3) Embrace women’s diverse experiences, center their voices, share and elevate their stories in trainings, at meetings, and during dialogue sessions
    • 4) Address concerns and issues from audit/assessment results (ongoing audits and assessments are most effective)
    • 5) Become aware of the power dynamics at play; understand where the power imbalances are and fix them; think diversity
  • From this session I learned that women are not alone in their experience of microaggression. Because of this session, I now feel more confident in identifying and speaking up about microaggressions in the workplace. I also feel better equipped to intervene in instances of microaggression because panelists offered a clear set of steps.
  • Resources:

Session Title: Día y Noche: Culturally Relevant Programs for Our Gente

  • Presenters: Lucia Gonzalez (Past President of REFORMA), Freda Mosquera, Christian Diaz, Odalis Jiménez-Linares, Morgan Lazo, Edwin Rodarte, Ana Campos, Beatris Bautista, Gina Rosabal, Marlú Abarca, Cynthia Bautista, Victoria Perez, Connie Flores
  • Summary and What I Learned: In this session, recipients of the REFORMA Día and Noche de Cuentos mini-grants shared how they planned and implemented culturally relevant activities at their libraries that celebrated Latino culture. A common theme amongst all panelists was the importance of forming partnerships within the community. I learned that REFORMA has grants to help libraries support programming for their Hispanic and Latinx communities. Click below and read about the grants and the programs that were made possible as a result of these funds:
  • Resources:

Day 2 of Conference

Session Title: Libros for Oregon, Connecting Libraries With the Guadalajara Book Fair: a Cooperative Buying Approach

  • Presenters: Valeria Davila, Alice Pérez Ververa, Hannah Bostrom, Deborah Gitlitz
  • Summary and What I Learned: The Guadalajara International Book Fair, the largest Spanish-language book fair, occurs every year in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Many libraries are unable to attend for various reasons. Some do not have bilingual librarians they can send. Others do not have the financial resources or the time to send individuals with those skills. In this session, members of Libros for Oregon (LfO) talked about the formation of LfO and how it has resulted in the purchasing of many books in Spanish for libraries in Oregon. They encouraged participants to form similar groups in their states in order to send librarians to Guadalajara to purchase books in Spanish on behalf of several libraries. The panel said the book fair gets very crowded and books are sold quickly. They advised us to study the layout before arriving in order to easily navigate to the books of most interest. Then, slap a sticky note on top of the stack of books you want to purchase and put it under the vendor’s table for reservation. If you don’t, items sell out and you may end up going home with only six books instead of the ten you wanted to purchase. I learned that by teaming up with a group of people dedicated to the same cause (in this case, bringing quality books in Spanish to libraries in Oregon), we can have a bigger impact in our community.
  • Resources:

Session Title: Working with Immigrant Communities to Promote Social Justice: New Ways of Teaching Library Service – English

  • Presenters: Dr. Michele A. L. Villagran, Vilma Sandoval-Sall
  • Summary and What I Learned: In this session, SJSU professor Dr. Michele A. L. Villagran and SJSU student Vilma Sandoval-Sall discussed their findings from a pilot program to promote the LIS profession to immigrants. The study was led by the research question “How can we welcome highly skilled immigrants into the library workforce?” In their study, researchers created a self-paced mini course in Google Classroom that explained the process towards librarianship in the United States. The program was a success in that it introduced students to the path they needed to take to attain a career in librarianship and it prompted all of them to take steps in that direction. The study revealed barriers that immigrants faced in pursuing a career in librarianship and resulted in recommendations for similar programs and recommendations for supporting immigrants. I learned that in order to increase diversity in LIS, we need to know how to support immigrants wanting to pursue a career in LIS, which starts by understanding the barriers they face.
  • Resources:

Poster Presentations:

  • “I have something to say: Increasing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) voices at conferences and workshops,by Bridgette Sanders and Tiffany Davis: Researchers conducted a study where they looked at BIPOC representation at conferences and found that BIPOC voices continue to be under-represented. To increase BIPOC conference representation, presenters suggested: allowing younger, less experienced speakers to present so they may gain presentation skills; consider other presentation formats such as fire-side chats, panel presentations, or side-stages to help inexperienced speakers build up their resumes; and, if you are not BIPOC and were invited to present, advocate for other BIPOC who are just as knowledgeable to be speakers or presenters, or invite them to co-present with you. Researchers also looked at the topics that BIPOC individuals presented on and found that it was usually on diversity, equity and inclusion. Presenters encouraged BIPOC to also present in other areas of expertise such as leadership, management, reference, and IT (to name a few) and for conference committees to seek them as speakers. I learned that we need to do better as a profession. We can’t just say we are committed to equity and inclusion and just write papers and teach about the topic and think we have done enough. We need to put it into practice. If we are not part of the BIPOC community and we are given an opportunity that amplifies our voice or gives us power, we need to pull a BIPOC individual into that space with us or give them that opportunity because their voices are needed.
  •  “No sé qué decir: Development Opportunities for Spanish-language Improvement Among Employees,by Elma Nieto-Rodriguez and Theresa Garza: Presenters shared how librarians from San Antonio Public Library created a group to practice their Spanish. They met over zoom during the pandemic and together they practiced speaking and writing in Spanish. Only Spanish was allowed during the meetings and apart from improving their Spanish, their objective was to also have fun. This resulted in the formation of a nonjudgmental, supportive, safe space that was both educational and enjoyable. I learned a new idea for helping librarians improve their Spanish: forming a fun, educational, supportive, Spanish-speaking practice group! It was motivating to see how much they enjoyed each other’s company while also learning.
  •  “Investigating methods for translating English language archival materials into Spanish: a pilot study,” by Julie Judkins (she/her), Jaimi Parker, Maia Knighton: The Special Collections Department at the University of North Texas (UNT) decided to translate their finding aids and digital exhibits into Spanish. Here, they shared their findings from assessing a translation vendor, Office 365, and DeepL in their translating capabilities. Researchers examined accuracy in translation, severity of the errors, time spent correcting the errors, and the total cost of using each service. Based on their findings, researchers decided they would continue using DeepL. I learned that even though it is time consuming to create a research project where you test different products, in the end it is worth it in order to give your customers the best experience and to show them that they matter. It also produces a ripple effect when you share your results and help improve services in other libraries.
  • “Teaching Library Research and Information Literacy to Latinx Students in a Community College HSI STEM Cohort Program,” by Antonio López: Presenter shared his experience teaching a Library Research and Information Literacy course to Latinx Students at a community college. He found that coordinating and collaborating with the instructors of other courses, in which these students were enrolled, was beneficial. Professors met regularly to ensure assignments would complement each other and to know how best to support students so they were successful in all their classes. Lopez also made it a point to celebrate and emphasize their shared cultural heritage as a way to affirm they belonged in higher education and to form a community of supportive students and professors. I learned that a great way to support Latinx students is for educators to collaborate with each other and plan assignments that complement each other to strengthen student’s learning path.

Networking Event:

At the virtual networking event, I got to meet librarians from all over the U.S. Some were students like me and others were professionals who had been working in libraries for several years. I was able to ask them for advice in “getting my foot in the door” since I was experiencing difficulties getting hired in libraries. The consensus: keep trying, do not give up. It was encouraging to hear that I wasn’t the only one experiencing trouble getting hired. One librarian told me that it took her several months and various job applications before she was finally hired.

Day 3 of Conference

Session Title: Spanish Services: From Remedial to Equitable

  • Presenters: Alberto Pellicer, Nadia Rendon, Nicanor Diaz
  • Summary and What I Learned: The Spanish-speaking team at the Denver Public Library (DPL) shared how their library went from minimal services to Spanish-speakers to forming a permanent task force called the Spanish Customer Experience Team dedicated to creating services for Spanish speakers. As a result of this task force, DPL now has: a Spanish-language phone line, Spanish-only story-time (instead of bilingual story-time), Phone-a-Story, Plaza, LENA, Early Learning Workshops, Exploralibros, Lecturas Personalizadas, Diversion en español, Conexiones, a Spanish Facebook page, more materials in Spanish, and adult programming that is completely delivered in Spanish. I learned that successful services to Spanish-speakers goes beyond teaching basic English skills. It involves valuing the Spanish language and holding Spanish speakers in high regard.Services to Spanish speakers should not just be educational; they should also be culturally relevant, fun, and based on needs and interests (instead of what we think is needed).
  • Resources:

Session Title: La Biblioteca is for everyone: using collections and programs to build connections with your Spanish speakers

Session Title: Libros Para Pueblos: Oaxacan nonprofit partnering with rural villages to connect families, books, and reading – Bilingual with English Translation

  • Presenters: Deborah Gitlitz, Jose Luis Zarate, Mike Bronn
  • Summary and What I Learned: Presenters talked about how they partnered with libraries in Oaxaca, Mexico to bring books and stories to children and adults living in impoverished, hard-to-reach, rural areas. Libros para Pueblos (LPP), a non-profit organization, is able to buy books through sponsorships and grants. Some of these sponsorships were the result of inviting tourists into a library and having a child read to them. LPP also connects libraries in Oaxaca through a yearly gathering where librarians come together to share ideas and learn from each other. I learned that establishing partnerships and collaborations is extremely powerful, especially when funds are low. I also learned that project management, marketing, and grant writing are essential skills in the survival of non-profit organizations.
  • Resources:

Day 4 of Conference

Session Title: Libraries, multilingualism, and power: Resisting English language instruction as performative and symbolic assimilation

  • Presenters: Denisse Solis, Jesus Espinoza, Anna Kozlowska, Ana Ndumu, Diane López
  • Summary and What I Learned: Presenters talked about the disservice caused by the continuous focus on English-only language development in libraries and in schools. They talked about the damage caused by contributing to systems that elevate the English language to a status symbol of “being American” and “well-educated”. They presented the idea of going beyond the celebration of diversity and culture to embracing non-English languages. They encouraged programming that nurtures bilingual education; programming that helps people advance or at least retain their native/mother tongue, and they encouraged librarians and educators to openly speak their non-English languages in the presence of students who speak those languages. I learned that equity and inclusivity means embracing non-English languages and supporting bilingual students in retaining their first languages.
  • Resources:


If I had to summarize my feelings about this event into two words, they’d be “inspired” and “motivated.” I’m inspired because I got to learn from professionals who not only share the same interests as I do, but whom I felt I could relate to because they were either students, bilingual, children of immigrants, or all three. It was amazing to be able to attend sessions in both English and Spanish and to hear from library professionals in Mexico. I’m motivated because I’m walking away from this event with new ideas for library programming and a whole new network of professionals that I can reach out to. Overall, it was great being able to connect with people who are trying to create a better world by embracing all cultures, all languages, and are working towards equity by using their positions in the library profession as a social justice tool.

About the Author

Lizette Lizardi is the Webmaster for REFORMA SJSU’s iSchool’s Student and Alumni group. She is a first-generation, bilingual, MLIS student who is passionate about promoting library services, information literacy, and reading among the Spanish-speaking community. Growing up, libraries helped her feel empowered and gave her hope. She now wishes to spread those feelings to other Spanish-speakers. Lizette has a Master’s in International Disaster Psychology from the University of Denver and has worked with refugees and unaccompanied minors from various Spanish-speaking countries. She aims to combine what she has learned from her past education and work experience with her knowledge of LIS to help Spanish speakers find empowerment through library services, information literacy, and reading.

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