Librarian for Equitable Services, East Los Angeles College Library, Monterey Park, CA
MLIS, San José State University, CA, 2011; MA, Latin American Studies, San Diego State University, 2009
Photo by Patrick Heagney
Cynthia Mari Orozco realizes asking a librarian for assistance can be intimidating. Her first and only experience asking for guidance as an undergraduate resulted in her quickly leaving the building. These days, Orozco goes out of her way to make herself approachable to students who may be experiencing library anxiety.
When she served as a student services librarian at California State University–Long Beach, she relocated herself to live in dorms with students as faculty-in-residence. “Cynthia understands that her work as a librarian does not stop at the reference desk or in the classroom,” says longtime friend and UCLA librarian Annie Pho. “It is a humanitarian endeavor that she lives, day in and day out; [she builds] communities wherever she is.”
In her current role as librarian for equitable services at East Los Angeles College, Orozco works primarily with nontraditional and first-generation students and is developing research projects relating to library anxiety.
She even schedules her work hours on nights and weekends, because it’s easier for her students to reach out for assistance then, says Pho.
Orozco is also the founder of the LIS Microaggressions blog (LISM). She defines microaggressions as “subtle insults, whether verbal, nonverbal, or visual, that are expressed toward individuals from marginalized communities, which can be based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender expression, or ability.” Launched in March 2014 on Tumblr, LISM is a safe, anonymous space for users to submit descriptions of such experiences that occur within the library and information science field.
“When I first heard the word microaggression, it perfectly summed up so many confusing, alienating, and aggravating experiences of my life,” recalls Orozco. “Even as a U.S.-born, native English speaker, I would constantly be asked ‘Do you speak English?’ or ‘Where are you (really) from?’ ”
In less than two years, LISM has grown into an international movement, including conference posters and presentations along with zines that are distributed at numerous conferences and used in diversity training throughout the country.
“One great outcome of this project is learning to be an ally to library workers from other marginalized groups,” Orozco says. “[LISM] is about making voices of individuals from marginalized communities heard with the hope that others can see why microaggressions are harmful.” That goal is tied closely to Orozco’s “tireless” efforts, says Pho, “to create spaces of refuge and community for marginalized individuals [not only] working in this field [but] served by it.”