Q&A Series – Next Generation Leaders: Raymond Pun

Q&A Series – Next Generation Leaders: Raymond Pun

26th March 2024

This month, we spoke with Raymond Pun, Academic and Research Librarian, Alder Graduate School of Education, a teacher’s residency program in California. 

In this role, he is responsible for all library services from research to collection development. Raymond supports teachers, teacher educators, and graduate students. With over 17 years of experience, Raymond has worked as a librarian in institutions such as Stanford University, Fresno State, New York University Shanghai, and the New York Public Library.

Raymond has also published and presented extensively on a variety of topics in librarianship. He is an active member of the American Library Association. Most recently, Raymond served as the 50th President of the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA) and the 42nd President of the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA). An emergent bilingual child of immigrant parents, Raymond is a first-generation college graduate and holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from California State University, Fresno; a Master of Library Science from City University of New York – Queens College; a Master of Arts in East Asian Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in History from St. John’s University. 

Connect with Raymond on LinkedIn here.

Committee of 100: As a Chinese American, what are some of the challenges you have encountered to become a leader in your respective field?

Ray: In my field (library and information sciences), I see several challenges, such as a lack of representation in formal and informal leadership roles in institutions such as public, academic, special, or school libraries, as well as books and learning materials about our identities and experiences. We are seeing more folks entering these leadership roles. Still, it’s also been challenging to hear about micro- and macroaggressive comments and barriers that prevent Asian Americans from serving in leadership roles and leading effectively. In my own experiences, I think there’s a stereotype that we are not “natural” leaders because of “traits” such as being “quiet,” “behind the scenes,” or only “caring about Asian American issues.” It’s far from the truth. We are not a monolithic group. In my experiences serving as the President of the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA) and the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), I saw the intersectional identities (e.g., gender, sexuality, and disabilities) of our members in these volunteer-led associations. I found ways to encourage, mentor, and support them, and we continue to work together to ensure more representation in the field. We recognize that we come with different experiences and hold various perspectives. Still, for the majority in the field of librarianship, people may not realize how we come with such diverse experiences and that these intersectional identities and experiences are assets for leadership positions and any organization. It is essential to continue building opportunities and uplifting marginalized voices within the field and our communities. With the lack of learning materials, engaging with publishers, distributors, authors, and illustrators is an ongoing process to ensure that we have diverse representation for our readers and learners. 

Committee of 100: What do you believe needs to be done so that more Chinese Americans feel empowered to follow their dreams and push forward to create the programs/businesses/position they want?

Ray: We need to think about the issues of safety and engagement. There’s a need to ensure psychological safety for Chinese Americans to be involved in pursuing and creating programs/businesses/positions. Unfortunately, we are seeing more Sinophobic and xenophobic attacks happening in society, which are not new and have a long history in the United States. Is there a way for us to come together in solidarity and in community with others who have been minoritized and historically underrepresented or oppressed? I believe so. We need to encourage awareness of these issues affecting Chinese Americans and identify opportunities to collaborate and uplift one another. We must be mindful of inclusive language and ensure our language does not exclude or marginalize others. For example, we might say, “Happy Lunar New Year” since there are many non-Chinese Asians who also celebrate this new year. We also need to raise awareness of the geopolitics that is occurring and how there are implications that affect Chinese American communities. I also think education is important – how we continue to push for educational reform in the curriculum to ensure that Asian American and Pacific Islander histories are taught in schools so that people are aware of the diverse contributions, stories, and accomplishments of AAPI communities. AAPI history is American history.

Committee of 100: What moment or learning experience inspired you to work in your professional field?

Ray: I often look back at my 17+ year career and how I started as a history major focused on the history and issues of human rights. I was keenly interested in the history of the Holocaust and felt that I wanted to preserve and provide access to the records of Holocaust survivors. I interned at the New York Public Library’s Dorot Jewish Division and worked as a student worker there. I was mentored by many library workers there who encouraged me to pursue a Master of Library Science, which I did. I also worked in other departments like periodicals, the general research division, etc. These work opportunities were all at the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. From there, I was recruited to work at New York University Shanghai and to collaborate with a team to build two libraries in Shanghai. Living in Shanghai allowed me to revisit Jewish communities there. It was a wonderful experience to work abroad and to learn more about my own identity as a Chinese American situated in China. From there, I transitioned to work as a faculty librarian at Fresno State, obtained my Doctorate in Education, and moved on to work at the Alder Graduate School of Education. I support teachers, teacher educators, and graduate students becoming excellent teachers in California. I am very interested in how the issues we see in our communities affect underserved groups. For example, the issue of broadband exclusion impacts access to learning and how this “digital divide” continues to affect Internet access in different ways, from the lack of technology training to language support. I continue to advocate these issues at the state and federal level through my association work with the American Library Association (ALA) and the California Library Association (CLA). Freedom to access information is a human right.

Committee of 100: For those Chinese Americans and AAPIs who just recently graduated college, what advice would you give to them?

Ray: Explore opportunities to grow and be comfortable with the ambiguity and discomfort. You may also want to become curious about many things. There will be times when you are unsure of what you are doing or where you are going. Many of us have been there and have learned that these challenging moments will pass. It’s OK to feel behind or lost. Everyone has a different path or journey, so we should avoid comparing ourselves to others. I also understand it’s very human nature to make comparisons. I encourage recent graduates to explore their core values, what is truly important for them, what they want to see in a career or role, and how these opportunities support their core values. Also, grow a network of mentors over time with people in your profession and people in other professions. This network will be your “board of advisors” who can give you feedback and perspective, and it’s up to you to take up these opportunities. It’s also OK to “fail” or “fall back” because this is how life is. Take those moments as learning opportunities and give yourself grace, compassion, and patience.

Committee of 100: What do you most want to be remembered for in terms of making your mark on this world?

Ray: For me, it’s to ensure that I have worked with others to create a sense of belonging, a sense of affirmation, especially for those who feel that they do not belong in the librarianship field or in society. I want to be remembered as someone who was guided by the values of compassion and collaboration and to ensure that people have opportunities to grow and flourish together.

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