People Interact

Blog about people-centered design by Lisa Chow and Sandra Sajonas.

Tag Archives: public-libraries

Anti-Asian Racism is Nothing New

I gave a 5-minute talk as part of a SLA virtual roundtable on social justice yesterday. Below you’ll find a list of resources that both informed and inspired my talk as well as a transcript of my talk (edited for clarity and for inclusion of images and links).

I’m gonna start off with a story.

I went to the doctor in February and was given a mask at the front desk. At the end of my visit, my doctor said to me “You heard about what happened a few days ago, right? When you leave the office, please take off your mask so you don’t bring attention to yourself.”

My doctor was referring to the recent incident where a woman wearing a mask was attacked by a man at the Grand St subway station in Chinatown who called her “diseased”.

Even before COVID-19, many Asians would wear masks to protect themselves from things like the freezing cold weather in winter and pollen that seems to be everywhere in spring.

When the SARS epidemic hit East Asia in 2002/2003, it led to a massive adoption of face masks as personal anti-viral protection. Since then, masks have been widely used by many Asians as both a health/medical strategy and civic duty.

So when COVID-19 hit, there was no question. Definitely mask up.

In January, people here in the US were mailing masks to family and friends in East Asia. Shortly after, quickly switching gears as the virus was made its way to the US, family and friends in East Asia were mailing masks to people in the US.

At the same time, knowing and understanding the importance of masks, local Asian American business owners and non-profit groups donated thousands of masks to a few hospitals in Queens.

In the US, many people are still adapting to mask wearing. It has been about 10 weeks since Americans were advised to wear them. Prior to that, wearing a mask when healthy has become discouraged to the point of being socially unacceptable.

Prior to COVID-19, it was a social stigma to wear a mask and during this coronavirus pandemic, at the least at the start of it, it seemed like it was dangerous to wear a mask if you’re Asian.

It is understandable that masks are seen differently depending on your cultural backgrounds and habits, but it is critical that mask wearing behavior is understood and people shouldn’t be targeted because they’re wearing a mask.

Of course, unfortunately, we know that it’s not just simply wearing a mask that makes you a target.

In March, the FBI released a statement saying “Hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States, due to the spread of coronavirus disease…endangering Asian American communities”.

And it did.

There have been numerous reports of anti-Asian incidents. And those are just the ones that are reported. Family and friends have been sharing their experiences and stories as well.

Unfortunately Asian discrimination is nothing new.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was an immigration law passed in 1882 that prevented Chinese laborers from immigrating to the US. The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first immigration law that excluded an entire group based on ethnicity. It also excluded Chinese immigrants from eligibility for US citizenship.

Uncle Sam kicks out the Chinaman” is an 1886 poster ad that refers to both the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and to the “George Dee Magic Washer,” which the machine’s manufacturers hoped would displace Chinese laundry operators. | Wiki Commons

Before Brown v. Board of Education, there was Tape v Hurley (1885), a landmark court case in the California Supreme Court in which the Court found the exclusion of a Chinese American student from public school based on their ancestry unlawful. When Joseph and Mary Tape tried to enroll their oldest daughter, Mamie at an all-white school in September 1884, Principal Hurley refused to admit her, referring to the existing school board policy against admitting Chinese children. They filed a lawsuit on behalf of their daughter against both Hurley and the San Francisco Board of Ed, and they won. However, local school board policy still kept Chinese children from attending the city’s white schools.

File:Tape family.jpg

Joseph, Emily, Mamie, Frank & Mary Tape circa 1884–85 | Wiki Commons

Citizenship right by birth in United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898) was a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court ruling. Wong Kim Ark, who was born in San Francisco in 1873, had been denied re-entry to the US after a trip abroad, under the Chinese Exclusion Act. He challenged the government’s refusal to recognize his citizenship, and the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, holding that the citizenship language in the Fourteenth Amendment covered the circumstances of his birth (born citizen) and could not be affected by an act of Congress.

An 1894 notarized statement by witnesses attesting to the identity of Wong Kim Ark. A photograph of Wong is affixed to the statement. Department of Justice. Immigration and Naturalization Service. San Francisco District Office. | Wiki Commons

During World War II, it was the policy of the U.S. government that Japanese Americans would be relocated and incarcerated in concentration camps. About 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, most of who lived on the Pacific Coast, were scattered across the country.

Japanese Americans in front of poster with internment orders. | Wiki Commons

And now present day –

  • Coronavirus is being called the Chinese virus along with comments like “These people eat strange things.” Mad cow disease affected those that ate infected beef, yet no one calls it the British virus.
  • Wuhan had 76-days of very strict quarantine and when their reopening was announced in the news, an influential coworker made a remark “Oh great, we’re gonna have another wave.” Are we saying Wuhan should be locked down til the end of time?
  • Many Asians are getting verbally and physically assaulted and harassed during this pandemic. It’s stressful enough with COVID-19, now Asians have to worry about being targeted as well.

Nothing has really changed.

A good friend and I were talking about this stuff and she said she was protesting racism and discrimination in college and now 40 years later, she’s seeing and fighting the same issues.

So what can we do? A few takeaways –

  • Be more culturally aware, culturally competent, and culturally sensitive.
    This includes becoming more aware of your own culture and biases.
  • Advocate and push for more diverse collections and resources.
    There is a lack of diversity in our library collections. While working on making databases remotely accessible during this pandemic, we noticed that when searching the Oxford English Dictionary, the term “Asian American” does not exist, even though the term is from the 1970’s so it is not a new term.
  • Learn your history, not just the textbook version.
    Renee Tajima-Peña, the lead producer of the 5-part PBS series Asian Americans (just aired last month) shares the importance of learning your racial history with a story from 6th grade. When she was giving a presentation to her class about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, her teacher called her a liar, questioned her account of her mother’s and grandmother’s experiences, and said “Well, they fabricated the whole thing. This could never happen in America.” As a 6th grader, she was thinking “I was so mad. I just knew at that point that this history really matters because my teacher’s trying to shut me up about it.”
Asian Americans – CAAM Home

Asian Americans – PBS Series | Center for Asian American Media

And lastly, speaking of mad.

W. Kamau Bell, an American stand-up comic and television host, recently wrote a essay telling everyone he’s got enough room and energy to be mad at a lot of things and those things don’t conflict with each other. The point of the article was to counter the criticism that he got on social media for defending Asian Americans against coronavirus-related racism when there was so much racism against Blacks. He said: “Being against racism means being against racism. And it means being against racism when it isn’t convenient, or easy, or fun, or even when the person you are trying to help doesn’t consider you one of their people, or one of their allies, or doesn’t even see you at all.”

Racism is still racism even if racism against Asians isn’t making the front page.


Our masked future – Wearing a mask all the time affects how we interact with each other. But how?

Coronavirus and Racism in America, with W. Kamau Bell

PBS ‘Asian Americans’ Producer On Why Learning Racial History Matters More Than Ever 

Black lives matter. Thoughts and wishes from one small business.  

Me and Bruce Lee would like to have a word with you. Being against racism means being against racism. 

From UX Study to UX Service: Using People-Centered Research Methods to Improve the Public Library Experience

You may have noticed that we have not been posting regularly…we have spent the past year working on an article and have finally completed it. Here it is, hot off the press!

From UX Study to UX Service: Using People-Centered Research Methods to Improve the Public Library Experience


From UX Study to UX Service: Using People-Centered Research Methods to Improve the Public Library Experience

We enjoyed talking about UX and libraries at the December 8th Driving Library Change with User Experience Design online conference. Here is our slidedeck and resources:

“From UX Study to UX Service: Using People-Centered Research Methods to Improve the Public Library Experience”

People-Centered Research and Analysis Methods (Monthly Method Spotlight)
Our monthly method spotlight features one people-centered method each month that you may find helpful for your work.

Informal Risk Assessment 
Risk = Likelihood * Impact
(For example, Likelihood of issue happening * Impact of issue on the project)

Books on Design Thinking, User Experience, and Project Management

  1. This is Service Design Thinking by Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider
  2. The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman
  3. The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman
  4. A Project Manager’s Book of Forms by Cynthia Stackpole Snyder
  5. Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager by Kogon, Blakemore & Wood
  6. DK Essential Managers: Project Management by Peter Hobbs

Wandering Librarian: Public Library of Valencia

IMG_20160601_190855Wandering across the Atlantic Ocean to Spain, I made a visit to the Public Library of Valencia. Housed in an early 1400’s Greek cross structured building, what was once the Hospital for the Poor Innocents became the public library in 1979. Like most libraries confined to a historic building, library usability and navigation suffers. I had a difficult time even finding the entrance and had to walk around the entire outside before I found it. Despite the flag & arch in the photo, this door is not the entrance.

IMG_20160601_191924Once I was inside, I was floored by the beauty of the building. From the 2nd floor I got a better understanding of the layout; each wing of the building is a section of the collection. Although, the lack of map or floor plan made it difficult to tell where each section was.

From a quick walk around the building I garnered that the collection was organized by the Dewey system.  The infantile (children’s section) grouped titles by series or author’s collection. The infantile section to me was the most user friendly section. A padded and cushioned nook beckoned the tiny users to make themselves comfortable. IMG_20160601_191424IMG_20160601_191410

While the library has OPAC computers, self-checkout machines & computer terminals, the library needs way more in terms of upping the user experience; say basic signage. All in all, the library does what libraries are supposed  to do (provide informational, technological services etc.) but with less flare and ambition.


HealthCampNYC: Using Collective Knowledge to Improve Health Literacy and Community Health Through Unconferences

I recently presented a poster session on HealthCampNYC: Using Collective Knowledge to Improve Health Literacy and Community Health Through Unconferences at the Medical Library Association 2013 Conference – One Health: Information in an Interdependent World.

More info
HealthCampNYC wiki
HealthCampNYC summary report
LibGuide on unconferences

The unconference concept is new to some attendees. Many of the attendees are interested in organizing unconferences at their libraries and organizations.

Unconferences is one of our areas of focus. Contact us for more info.