I recently got to hear wonderful things from Jose Aponte out in San Diego. You all may remember his ride across the country in 2016 to raise money for the American Library Association Spectrum Scholarship after retiring as Director from the San Diego County Public Library System.

Aponte has an amazing art exhibit (Indigenous: A Mestizo Journey) displaying at the Vista Library until March 10. The San Diego Tribune’s Lisa Deaderick wrote a wonderful article on January 21 about it.

 

(Photo of Jose Aponte taken by Eduardo Contreras of the San Diego Union Tribune)

 

Here are a few things that make this exhibit important for us in the library world, along with some reflection questions to prompt future action. This might just be one of the most important posts I’ll make all of 2018.

1)      Aponte had to travel outside of the library in order to both get inspiration for his project and in order to go carry it out. He went to Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, and various parts of the United States. So, traveling out of the library is a good thing. International travel allows traditional frameworks of thinking to go out the window as you learn how other cultures work and you thus become sensitive to those cultures. Library supporters and librarians need to ask themselves even if they cannot travel internationally at this time, where can I go to learn more about my local community? This might involve going to local business association meeting, places of worship, cultural heritage institutions, and centers of learning to name just a few. Stopping by and visiting is good, but getting involved is even better. How might library leaders empower staff to do this?

 

2)      A skill set was brought along for use in Aponte’s travels. I am not talking about a strictly library related skill gift, but rather a more personal one. Simply put, photography was something Aponte came to the table with. What skills, apart from the strictly library related, do we have that we can take with us for use anywhere? How do we see the use of those skills benefitting other people we meet?

 

3)      Choosing to interact with people that we do not normally see every day or that are different from us is going against the grain. We leave our comfort zone behind and become open to how these interactions change us for the better. Aponte willingly did this. So, how are we interacting with people that are different from us in our local community? How can we describe the benefits of these experiences? How might we record these experiences for future private  reflection or even public sharing? Aponte states, “The message is simple: celebrate one planet, live as one people, and learn from the richness of our diversity of cultures, peoples and geography for a truly prosperous and vital common humanity.”

 

4)      Tie everything together, bring it on home to the library (as well as elsewhere), and tell others about what you’ve been up to. Aponte’s venue for his exhibit is the Vista Library. We should all think of the library as a place for public sharing. However, we needn’t stop there. What places, library included, might be venues for telling the story of our experiences with other cultures to a public audience? How might we use the online environment to spread the word about what we are doing? How might we partner with those in our community to help us do so?