New Jersey's Library Community Celebrates Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in the Library Workplace with Culture Connection Kick-off Event, March 22, 2024

On a bright day, the New Jersey library community gathered at the Piscataway Public Library to celebrate the rich tapestry of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) cultures. This gathering marked the launch of Culture Connection, a new statewide Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) project, initiated by EDI-NJ. Aimed at connecting library staff from diverse backgrounds, Culture Connection offers a platform for cultural exchange, education, and celebration, aligning with the EDI Framework for NJ Libraries supported by LibraryLinkNJ, the New Jersey Library Association (NJLA), and the New Jersey State Library (NJSL). The event was funded by the Hasbrouck Heights Public Library, Hoboken Public Library, and LibraryLinkNJ, and co-sponsored by NJLA and MentorNJ.

The event began with an informal networking session, featuring sign-in, networking, fun activities, lightning quizzes, and diverse food booths. The atmosphere was vibrant, as library professionals from across the state mingled, shared stories, and enjoyed culinary delights representing the vast cultural heritage of Asia and the Pacific Islands.

  • Japanese Origami Showcase by Ami Nakamura & Iris Lin, Paramus Public Library
  • Chinese Yo-Yo Performance by Natalie Lau, Seton Hall University Library
  • Trivia quizzes covering API pop cultures, food, sports, and life, featuring fun and meaningful prizes

The formal portion of the event started with an opening remark by MC Mimi Hui, Director of the Hasbrouck Heights Public Library, followed by welcome and introductory remarks from leaders in New Jersey libraries, library associations, and community organizations. These leaders emphasized the importance of fostering understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity within library workplaces to better serve New Jersey’s diverse communities:

  • Ralph Bingham, Executive Director, LibraryLinkNJ
  • Jen Nelson, New Jersey State Librarian
  • Brett Bonfield, Executive Director, NJLA
  • John Guido, President, NJALA
  • Gabrielle Casieri, Vice President, NJASL
  • Marilyn Ochoa, Vice-Chair/Chair Elect of VALE
  • Selwa Shamy, Chair, EDI-NJ
  • Maria Eng, President, AAPI of East Brunswick
  • Dr. Ying Lu, Founding Board Member, Make Us Visible NJ & Founder of The E Pluribus Unum Project Inc.

API Culture Event - Special Guests

Following the introductions, enlightening lightning talks under the theme "We Are Culturally Different Inside: More Than Meets the Eye!" were delivered by the following speakers from various New Jersey libraries. They offered insights into the unique cultures they represent, highlighting the diversity within the API community itself.

  • Chinese Culture: Mimi Hui, Hasbrouck Heights Public Library
  • Desi & South Asian Culture: Anu Vedantham, Princeton University Library
  • Korean Culture: Shinae Hyun, Teaneck Public Library & Nicole Marconi, Hoboken Public Library
  • Japanese Culture: Setsuko Noguchi, Princeton Public Library

Lightning Talk: Chinese Culture

Lightning Talk: Gaming in Korea

The main highlight was the hybrid presentation "Addressing Racial Microaggressions towards Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders in the Library Workplace." This interactive discussion, led by Raymond Pun and Tarida Anantachai, shed light on the microaggressions faced by the AAAPI community, the stereotypes and biases they combat, and provided practical tools for addressing these issues in the library workplace. Attendees shared their experiences and reflections, fostering community and mutual support. Feedback from attendees highlighted the session's insightful and informative nature, appreciating the well-organized presentation and the wealth of resources provided. Based on overwhelmingly positive feedback from both in-person and virtual attendees, LibraryLinkNJ is planning to bring them back for follow-up programs for NJ libraries.

  • “This was a terrific session with a lot of information to unpack. Both presenters were knowledgeable and dynamic. Their presentation was very well organized, and I appreciate them sharing the slides with us for access to resources and further reflection.”
  • “The session was very insightful and it was knowledgeable to hear what others had to say about their experiences.”
  • “Presenters were well informed on their topic; populations statistics are interesting, as are the stereotype charts, and historical perspective; hopefully will be able to read some of the resources they provided to become more informed about this topic!”

API Culture Event: Main Presentation

The event concluded with a raffle drawing and closing remarks, inspiring attendees and providing deeper insights into API cultures.

Responses from attendees on valued aspects of the event included the opportunity to build connections, learn about other cultures through food and games, and appreciate the diverse representation of librarian groups and cultural organizations. Many expressed a desire for more events highlighting other cultural and ethnic groups. Here are some responses from the attendees to our question what aspects of the event they value the most:

  • “Building connections; learning about other cultures; embodying the culture through food, games etc.”
  • “Networking with my library colleagues and learning about the different Asian cultures!”
  • “All type of librarian groups and cultural groups representation (AAPI, AAAPI, NJASL, EDI-NJ and so on)”
  • “Networking & introduction to the professional associations in NJ. It was good to meet & see the individuals I have seen in email newsletters!”
  • “Keynote presentation was terrific. I also enjoyed the lightning talks”
  • “The posters around the room was very, very informative!”
  • “I would like to see more events like this that highlight other cultural and ethnic groups.”

We extend our thanks to our sponsoring organizations and groups, LibraryLinkNJ staff, and the Piscataway Public Library staff for their roles in making this event a success. We also share our deepest gratitude with the API Event Planning Team for their tremendous effort and dedication:

  • Mimi Hui, Hasbrouck Heights Public Library, API Group Leader & Prize Donor
  • Jennie Pu, Hoboken Public Library, API Group Leader
  • Ami Nakamura, Paramus Public Library, Prize Donor
  • Melissa Brinn, Cherry Hill Public Library
  • Natalie Lau, Seton Hall University Library
  • Nicole Marconi, Hoboken Public Library
  • Shinae Hyun, Teaneck Public Library
  • Tara Maharjan, New Jersey State Archives, Prize Donor
  • Mi-Sun Lyu, LibraryLinkNJ

API Culture Event Planning Team
Photo (from the left): Natalie, Shinae, Nicole, Mi-Sun, Tara, & Mimi

The Culture Connection API Culture event serves as a powerful reminder of diversity's value and inclusion's importance in creating vibrant, supportive library communities across New Jersey. The event's success promises more enriching programs and initiatives through EDI-NJ in the coming months, aiming to build bridges and foster understanding among library staff statewide.

[ API Culture Event Photo Album ]
API Culture Event - Photo Album
[ Fun Facts about API Posters ]
API Culture Event - Posters