Perspectives – Ray Pun

Perspectives, an interview series that will highlight the work of librarians in different fields and professional specializations. Our series will focus on the experiences of our participants, what they do, what they have learned, and offer advice to those interested in librarianship and various fields. To our readers, our committee hopes this column will highlight the valuable labor these individuals perform on an everyday basis. Our interviews will provide perspective on what labor in these fields entails and current issues that affect librarianship, employment, etc. On behalf of the Communications Committee, we hope you find this new column illuminating, informative, and inspiring!

Raymond Pun (he/him) is a librarian in the Bay Area, California. Originally from New York City, he has previously worked in public, academic and school libraries. Ray is currently the Vice President/President-Elect of the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA). 

Tell us about your current job and what about your job you enjoy the most?

I really enjoy working in teams and collaboratively identifying opportunities and solutions together. I think it’s important to recognize that a lot of the work we do is centered on relationship building and collaboration. 

Can you describe a memorable moment in your career?

One memorable moment in my career was when I organized and hosted a webinar for ACRL back in Spring 2018 and we featured three distinguished speakers on the issue of free speech on campuses — Dr. Joan DelFattore connected me to UC Irvine Chancellor Dr. Howard Gillman and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean (at UC Irvine School of Law at the time) Erwin Chemerinsky. Dr. Gillman had an emergency and couldn’t join us but we had Dr. DelFattore and Dean Chemerinsky to talk about interpretations and implications of free speech on colleges today. It was well attended and I was honored to have organized such an important webinar discussion.

What kinds of professional development do you do?

I really like to organize events and programs (in-person or online). I believe that professional development can enhance one’s personal and professional opportunities; expand their networks and connect to new and different topics. At the moment, I am looking at how to teach special collections online/virtually or in hybrid roles effectively. These areas include looking at digital pedagogy and technologies to consider. It’s an opportunity to bring special collections in virtual environments. 

Is there one piece of advice you have received in your career thus far that stands out the most (you carry with you in your work)?

You can say yes to everything but know that you are saying no to something else. Saying yes to opportunities can feel great, and can create new experiences or networks; however, this may also prevent you from working on something else. Keep that in mind because it is an opportunity cost. 

What are some things you know now about your job/librarianship that you wish you had known before entering the field?

I wish I had known that joining associations and being active in associations was key in expanding networks as an early career librarian. I thought if people attended conferences, that would be sufficient but that’s not the case necessarily. People get to know one another through committee service work. Consider joining as an early career/as a student if you can. 

What do you think some misconceptions about librarians/libraries/librarianship are?

I think people in general tend to assume or have a misconception that libraries/library workers and the field are universally supportive of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in everything we do. We are to a certain extent but there are so much more work to do in expanding DEI values in our framing as library workers, in what we do, what we collect, share, uplift — how we recruit/retain Black/Indigenous/People of Color (BIPOC) folks and other underrepresented folks in the profession; and how do we truly center DEI work in our practice? — This also includes accountability – how do we ensure that we are practicing what we are saying. Saying we are “open” and “supportive” in statements or websites might not be sufficient to actually engage in intentional DEI work.  

What are some current professional obstacles in this field that upcoming professionals should know about?

What I am seeing now is a huge shift in how we are thinking about our work — and the resistance that comes with it. So when we are talking about new values or opportunities, we have to ask ourselves, how do we expand them for other folks? Who is not included in this discussion? Who should be in this discussion? Like any other industry, upcoming professionals need to recognize that there will be challenges in the profession – so for example, if we are aiming to promote DEI values, there will be resistance (intentional or not) whether these barriers include policies, systems, lack of resources and/or personnel — we need to recognize that how and what we are reframing to do can challenge our own perspectives and values. This takes time and I think we need to acknowledge that any kind of change will take time. 

What professional advice would you give to graduate students who are about to enter the field?

Be involved in association work, learn and meet people online (if you cannot attend conferences due to cost and covid at the moment) but this is where you can learn and connect with others who can tell you more about XYZ job, position, region, etc. I think it’s helpful to learn that you’ll always be evolving your practice. It’s always good to take charge of your learning and be proactive in seeking and managing your professional development opportunities. Even after you obtain a job or a job of your choice, always stay in touch and get engaged. 

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