Libro Futuro

Digital Divide, Gender Inclusiveness and WeChat. Mario Coffa interviews Raymond Pun

intervista in italiano

Raymond Pun is a librarian in California, USA and he previously worked in Shanghai, China. He holds a Doctorate in Education, a Master of Library Science, a Master of Arts in East Asian studies and a Bachelor of Arts in History. He is a member of the Continuing Professional Development and Workplace Learning Section (CPDWL) of IFLA – the International Federation of Library Associations and institutions.

In your works you have dealt with Digital Divide and the impact this phenomenon had on communities during the period of COVID19. What can you tell us about it?

Thanks for the interview! I conducted research on how digital exclusion impacts public library users of color in California and what their experiences were prior to COVID-19. It was a qualitative study that highlighted how public libraries can better support their library users. I finished the research in the middle of COVID-19 last year and followed up with participants through the phone to learn more the impact of COVID-19 and digital exclusion. Participants shared that their harrowing stories where they could not go to their public libraries anymore and had to go to the parking lot to use the WiFi or find other community resources to provide them with Internet access.

Regarding one of your latest works, what is the role of academic and specialist libraries towards studies on ethnic programs?

Currently I am co-editing a book (with Kenya S. Flash from Yale University and Melissa Cardenas-Dow from Sacramento State University) on how academic and research libraries support American ethnic studies program in universities, colleges and community colleges. It has been fascinating to read over 20 contributions on the impact of ethnic studies programs in library services, collections and programs (e.g. Asian Pacific American Studies, Black/African American Studies, Indigenous Studies, Latinx Studies). Library workers (including anyone who work in libraries) play an important role in collaborating with faculty in supporting these academic programs that center on marginalized experiences and voices. Important collections are acquired in libraries, they are used by librarians to teach primary source research or digital projects; and library workers collaborate with faculty to build new curriculum programs centering on ethnic studies too.

You have had the opportunity to work in cities on different continents: China, Shanghai and now the United States. It would be very interesting to understand, according to your point of view, what differences or particularities you could find between libraries, librarians and people.

It’s an exciting opportunity if you get to a chance to work and live in another country for a time being. I think what I got out of it was to appreciate the learning opportunities since it was a temporary moment. Library cultures vary from country to country. It really is about institutional culture and it was quite consistent to American style workplace environments. It’s always an adjustment living abroad — you learn a lot about yourself when you are uprooted in a new environment. There’s a big push and culture for e-devices and digital reading in China (at least back in 2015 when I was there). It was an opportunity to explore different ways to engage with users through digital platforms too.

Gender inclusiveness: this is a topic you dealt with in one of your articles and the actions that libraries can take to support and encourage this inclusiveness. Can you tell us briefly?

Yes, this article was based on my own experiences working at an academic library in California where we focused on promoting gender diversity in our libraries which included our facilities – and in partnership with a campus office, we ensured that at least one of our bathrooms was gender inclusive so that our students/faculty who may identify as non-binary may feel comfortable in using it. The article also looked at different libraries that were creating these facilities – and what impact they have in their communities.

WeChat is used at the Shanghai Library of New York University to support students’ research and information needs. So, can social media and various social messaging services really be useful tools for a library?

Right, WeChat is an important app in China – many people use it to connect with one another – it’s a bit like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Venmo combined. It’s quite a robust app to share information and images too. I think at the time it was a new tool to support students and faculty who may have questions about the library – and can message us directly. It was more of a promotion to engage with our users. Libraries should always consider these new apps to engage with users but also to think about their own capacities too.





Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.


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