As part of its ongoing commitment to furthering equity, diversity, and inclusion in librarianship, ACRL is supporting Stephanie Akau as its 2018-19 Spectrum Scholar. Akau currently works as a Library Information Specialist at the University of New Mexico and is a student in the MLIS program at San Jose State University.
Prior to entering library school, Akau’s academic focus was on music performance and education. She received her Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of New Mexico, a Master of Music in clarinet performance from Michigan State University, and her Doctorate of Musical Arts, again focusing on clarinet performance, from the University of Cincinnati.
“My road to librarianship was circuitous, which I now realize is common,” Akau notes. “I planned to become a clarinet professor and for much of my life, music defined who I was. As I finished my last degree, I realized my hard work had taken me as far as I could go. I was unaware that librarianship was a career option until a friend went on to earn her MLIS after we completed our Master of Music degrees. Her decision to move into librarianship stuck in my mind. I was a frequent library patron, loved doing research, and still wanted to work in academia, but never considered being a librarian.
“Years later, as I was trying to decide whether or not to change careers, I interviewed several librarians and archivists,” she continued. “They enthusiastically discussed the service aspects of librarianship and the value the profession places on lifelong learning, which I value highly as well. I believe that if I knew about the MLIS degree when I was younger, I would have entered library science sooner.”
After graduating from San Jose State, Akau plans to combine her life-long love of music with librarianship by pursuing an academic library position where she can combine her music knowledge and passion for teaching as a music or instruction librarian.
“I discovered that I loved teaching college students while I was a graduate teaching assistant with the Music Education Division at the University of Cincinnati, where I designed and taught the Woodwind Methods course to undergraduates,” Akau reflected. “I enjoyed interacting one-on-one with my private clarinet students, a type of instruction I found mirrored in reference. As an intern at the James Madison University Libraries during the summer of 2017, I transferred my music education experience in lesson design and assessment into library instructional design.”
Since 1999, ACRL has provided more than $115,000 to the Spectrum Scholar Program. In addition, ACRL assists scholars through mentoring and conference assistance. The ACRL Dr. E.J. Josey Spectrum Mentor Committee supports Spectrum Scholars with an interest in academic libraries by pairing them with a trained mentor from an academic library. The committee has paired more than 160 Spectrum Scholars with mentors since 2003. ACRL also provides scholarships to support travel for the attendance of Spectrum Scholars at ACRL Conferences.
“ACRL has long been committed to ensuring equity, diversity, and inclusion in the profession,” said ACRL President Lauren Pressley of the University of Washington. “Sponsoring Spectrum scholars like Stephanie Akau is just one way we are able to put ACRL’s values into action at a time when many in our profession regularly express concern about, and need to see direct support of, those core values. Our signature initiative on EDI renews this focus and enables the association to further examine and develop support in these critical areas.”
The ALA Spectrum Scholarship Program actively recruits and provides scholarships to American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Middle Eastern and North African, and/or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students to assist them with obtaining a graduate degree and leadership positions within the profession and ALA. Through Spectrum, ALA affirms its commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion by seeking the broadest participation of new generations of racially and ethnically diverse librarians to position ALA to provide leadership in the transformation of libraries and library services. To learn more about the Spectrum Scholarship Program, or to donate, visit the ALA website.