This past year, Dr. Vanessa Irvin invited LIS students to partner with her Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS)-funded grant project, Hui ‘Ekolu, to work with and observe Hawai’i’s public library professional development. Recent grad Nicholas Cho capped his final semester by submitting a paper on community building in public libraries in Hawai’i, which was recently published by Collaborative Librarianship.
Public libraries in Hawai’i serve one of the most diverse populations in the United States. With 51 branch locations across six islands, Hawaii’s public libraries are central hubs for citizens, where community building can take place. This paper seeks to explore ways in which community building takes place at public libraries in Hawai’i. Through on-site visits at public libraries, observations of training sessions of participants of a Hawai’i-based public library professional development program (Hui ‘Ekolu), and informal interviews with local public library patrons, key themes, reflections and analysis convey a common question across all groups: “What is a Native Hawaiian Library?” “What is Hawaiian librarianship?” This research is at an emerging stage where such meaningful questions are pointing towards a need to center Indigenous Hawaiian ways of knowing and perceiving public services in libraries as a primary tenet of cultural competence for public library workers in Hawai’i. As a federally funded grant program, Hui ‘Ekolu is an innovative opportunity to explore questions that emerge as an inquiry-based approach to determining what professional learning and development can look like within place-based contexts.