Posted by: Cynthia Mari Orozco | August 13, 2011

Returning to Swimming After an 8-year…Taper?

I quit college swimming in 2002. I was burnt out, not enjoying the sport anymore, and ready to enjoy other university experiences. The first month was strange. I had way too much time on my hands. I couldn’t eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted without consequences. But I slowly adjusted to post-athletics life and moved on.

In May of 2007, I was rear ended while stopped at a red light, which left me with some back and neck injuries. It took awhile for me to heal, and not even fully, and my doctor mentioned at some point that if I had been in better shape, my injuries would have been less severe. This was perhaps the first time that I seriously considered joining Masters swimming and regaining some semblance of my former athletic self. I was inspired to get back in the water but not quite ready to return to a team environment. I decided to instead give myself a real challenge: Water World Swim’s 2009 Swim Around the Rock, a 5K swim from Hyde Street Pier to Alcatraz and back in the San Francisco Bay. And in true competitive swimmer spirit, I decided to go sans wetsuit. To prepare for my swim, I did a shorter 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz to Hyde Street Pier a couple of months before the big swim to check out the waters. Let me tell you, the Bay is freezing (especially in February!), its waters unpredictable, and kind of scary! But I was even more motivated to train and successfully complete the big swim.

Then, two months before my swim (and days before my oral defense of my graduate program!), I broke my foot at my restaurant job. Major setback. But I wasn’t going to prevent me from completing my swim. First, I survived crutches and managed to switch to a soft cast to walk across the stage for graduation. Then, I got back in the pool and prepared myself for one of the most physically enduring challenges of my life.

The Rock.

Up until my feet touched the water, I was feeling pretty confident about my swim. But as soon as we started counting down the seconds to the start of the swim, I felt my stomach tying in knots. When the horn blew, I saw everyone around me dive into the water and sprint towards Alcatraz while I rather slowly submerged myself under the water and found myself just trying to catch my breath as the cold water seemed to momentarily incapacitate me. At some point, I managed to find my rhythm and work my way to Alcatraz but, for most of the race, I wondered if I was making any progress. When I finally started to approach Alcatraz, I was elated! However, I soon found out that swimming around the island would be the most difficult part of the race although it was the shortest in distance. I thought of all the stories I had heard about Alcatraz, got scared of ghosts in the water, and swam backstroke or with my head out of the water for awhile. I was slightly disoriented and couldn’t tell which direction I was supposed go. And I got stuck in a current for at least 20 minutes towards the northwest corner of the island. Even though throughout most of the race I questioned if I would ever finish, I managed to enjoy the unique opportunity I was in. I saw a sea lion swim by only meters from where I was. While swimming backstroke, I was able to marvel at the Golden Gate Bridge from an entirely new vantage point. And I’m now one of a relatively small group of crazy swimmers who successfully attempted this swim! I placed third in the women’s non-wetsuit division and 15th overall. The best part? After my swim, I felt like I could do anything! (Even backpack through Ireland in my soft cast!) And when someone asks me to name something interesting about myself, I can actually say, “Oh, I swam around The Rock one time. Without a wetsuit.”

Post-swim battle scar!

I should probably mention that before the surge in confidence, I finished the swim nearly in tears saying that I would never, EVER do this again. Well, two short years later, I’ve decided to up the ante by swimming Water World Swim’s Bridge to Bridge 10K Swim from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Bay Bridge. I was motivated to do this swim for two reasons. First, shortly after Swim Around the Rock, I had to go back and have two surgeries to correct my initial fracture. I was on crutches for months, miserable, and hardly getting any physical exercise. It would have made sense to start swimming again since I wasn’t able to walk, but I didn’t. Signing up for the 10K was a reason for me to finally take the plunge and start Masters swimming, so I did it. Plus, I told my friends about it so I couldn’t back out of it.

Secondly, inspired by the philanthropy of my fellow librarians, I decided to swim for a cause: Japan Library Relief. The American Library Association has set up a site to help solicit donations for the Japan Library Association, who is leading the effort in providing services and support. As a Japanese American with family in Japan, this cause is especially close to my heart and I’m more motivated than ever in finishing this 10K and raising money!

My initial goal was to raise at least $500. In two weeks, I had already surpassed the $1000 mark. In that moment I found myself crying, amazed at the generosity of my supporters. I’m not one to share my emotions so freely, so this is a pretty big deal! I’ve now set my goal for $2,500, so any help to make it happen is much appreciated!

UCSD Masters Swimming.

Lastly, I owe UCSD Masters so much in helping me attain my fitness goals and in preparing me for this upcoming swim. While living on-campus for a fellowship at the UC San Diego Library, I knew I had to take advantage of my proximity to the pool and the opportunity to swim in a team environment again. Although my first swim was pretty painful (I was tired after the warm up!), I’m starting to feel like a real swimmer again two months later. Although my fellowship is over, I plan to continue Masters swimming in Orange County. Also, I plan to get back into swim competition and more open water swims. Starting the fundraiser for Japan Library Relief has also inspired me to pursue other fundraising efforts in the future. You might as well do what you do for a great cause!


If you’d like to donate to my Japan Library Relief cause, please visit my FirstGiving site and be sure to include “Japan Library Relief” in the comments section! Any little bit helps. Thanks, friends, for your support!

Posted by: Cynthia Mari Orozco | June 29, 2011

ALA 2011: A Series of Fortuitous Events

I’ve been working my way up through the library conference hierarchy since my first California Library Association conference this past November. I followed that conference with ALA Midwinter, ACRL, and, finally, the conference of all conferences: ALA Annual. It was pretty intense with somewhere around 20,000 library folk roaming the streets of New Orleans.

After ACRL, I decided against a drawn out plan for the conference but rather listed potential sessions and events that were of interest. Plans change. Sometimes I get lost. And sometimes sessions just aren’t what you expected them to be. Just remember to get a seat near an aisle to make a quick getaway.

I’ve found that keeping an open mind and reworking your conference schedule can work out far better than you could ever have imagined. I attended the APALA President’s Program entitled, “Communities & Libraries Challenge Adversity,” which included a film screening of “A Village Called Versailles” and featured a panel of local community leaders directly involved in the Vietnamese American community of Versailles. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I ended up being very inspired by the Versailles community’s rise to social activism and by its young community organizers. After the program was over, I chatted with some fellow attendees and decided to nix my next session and go to lunch with them instead. Unbeknownst to me, I ended up having lunch with one of the panelists from the session I had missed the day before because I ended up going to the wrong hotel. She was awesome and we had some great conversation. AND I finally got to try Cochon Butcher and have an awesome Cubano sandwich. Couldn’t have planned a better afternoon.

That’s pretty much how my whole conference ran. I had plans. Some happened. Others didn’t. One night I planned to call it an evening at 10PM; I left the bar at 3AM. I probably learned more from social events, unconferences, and meeting random library people than from actual sessions. Plus, I had a lot of fun and have greatly expanded my network of awesome librarian friends.

Since I am not yet a rich librarian, how did I afford to attend a conference on the other side of the US? I was fortunate enough to receive the 2011 APALA Travel Award, which helped immensely in securing a flight and room. I also signed up for bundled registration for Midwinter and Annual to save a couple of bucks on registration costs. I decided not to book a conference hotel but shared a room with two friends at a cute little hotel in the Garden District (with the exception of the huge cockroach we found the first night). My previous plan had been to stay at a hostel for only 15 bucks a night, which is also a great option and a way to meet new people. For students a new librarians, there are many scholarships and travel awards available if you’re willing to seek out those opportunities.

I think it is near impossible to describe the five days of ALA craziness I experienced in New Orleans, but my overall point is to get out there and have an open mind.

Posted by: Cynthia Mari Orozco | May 2, 2011

Keeping History Alive: 42nd Annual Pilgrimage to Manzanar

This past weekend, I made the four-hour trip up to Inyo County to visit the Manzanar National Historic Site, formerly the Manzanar War Relocation Center, which was one of ten Japanese-American concentration camps during World War II. On February 19, 1942, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which prompted the mass incarceration of all people of Japanese ancestry residing on the West Coast, most of whom were American citizens. Over 110,000 individuals of Japanese Americans were displaced with approximately 10,000 individuals at the Manzanar site. The Manzanar Relocation Center was the first permanent camp, formerly an assembly center, opened on March 22, 1942, and closed on November 21, 1945.

One of the major topics discussed at the 42nd annual Manzanar Pilgrimage was the terminology used when discussing the mass removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans. Activist and (internee), Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, wrote “Words Can Lie or Clarify: Terminology of World War II Incarceration of Japanese Americans,” illustrating the need for replacement of euphemisms used to describe the WWII Nikkei diaspora and experience, such as “concentration camp” rather than “relocation center.” In a 1944 video entitled “Challenge to Democracy,” the War Relocation Authority stated that Japanese Americans were neither prisoners nor internees but “merely dislocated people, the unwounded casualties of war.” Whether you call them internment or concentration camps, I doubt that those persons forcibly removed from their homes to these permanent camps were hardly left “unwounded.”

Over 1,100 people of all different backgrounds and walks of life attended the pilgrimage. There were various events throughout the day, including speakers, ondo dancing, and taiko, but the most powerful aspect of the pilgrimage was simply stopping to remember what happened at Manzanar and the other camps and how Japanese Americans were treated during WWII, as well as reflect on the dangers of ignorance from fear. I remember when I first learned about Japanese American internment in elementary school. I felt so angry, and I couldn’t understand how such a reprehensible act could be carried out by my own government; however, I had no idea that the politics of fear would still remain today.

My favorite part of the experience occurred during a Buddhist prayer at the Manzanar cemetery. During the prayer, this small dust devil formed about 40 meters east of the monument and moved right over the monument before dissipating. The pilgrimage was quite the emotional experience, and it was absolutely wonderful to have the presence of our ancestral spirits, as well.

Posted by: Cynthia Mari Orozco | April 24, 2011

Networking for MLIS Students

Today I had the pleasure of attending the “Grow Thyself: Making the Transition from Student to Professional” peer-sourced workshop through the California Library Association’s (CLA) third annual Professional Development and Networking Program. Well, I caught the last half of the program anyhow. Unfortunately, I was totally wiped out from working a 10PM to 4AM shift the night before/morning of the event, so I joined the group after lunch. Immediately after lunch, workshop participants divided into small groups to discuss and share their thoughts around one topic, including networking, conferences, and associations. These thoughts and ideas were then synthesized and shared by one member of each group to all workshop participants.

I participated in the group discussion regarding conferences. Conferences provide students with a wonderful opportunity to network with library professionals, participate in professional development, supplement their library school education, and kick off their professional careers. I’ve listed some of the advice discussed by our group:

  • Look at the conference schedule to get an idea of what events may be of interest to you. There are a variety of sessions, workshops, preconferences, social events, job placement centers (i.e. career workshops, resume review), and other events to consider. Think about what you might want to attend, but remember to be flexible. Also, feel free to leave a session if you want to move on to something else.
  • Keep your ears alert to what your fellow conference goers are buzzing about. Similarly, follow the conference hashtag on Twitter. These informal networks will keep you informed of the latest social event, exciting sessions, and everything in between.
  • How can students save money to attend conferences? One option is to look for volunteer opportunities for reduced conference registration. Last November, I volunteered at the CLA registration booth for three hours and paid $25 for all-conference registration rather than the regular $100 for students. SJSU also had volunteer opportunities for students in exchange for a free exhibition hall pass (plus, you may get free SLIS swag!). The student rates are also significantly lower than regular conference registration, so take advantage of them before you graduate!
  • You can also save money by sharing a room with other students or library professionals. Hostels are also a low-cost option. Both scenarios are also great ways in which to meet new people!
  • Also, turn to listservs, newsletters, Facebook pages, and informal library networks to learn about any scholarships or travel stipends to attend conferences. I feel these opportunities are underutilized, and I often see scholarship deadlines being extended when there is either a low number of scholarship applicants–or none at all.
  • Remember to bring business cards! Have them handy and ready to distribute, perhaps kept in your conference badge. Also, bring your resume or  CV. Often times, there is a job placement center that offers resume reviews or interview workshops. There may also be prospective employers.
  • Bring comfortable walking shoes! At ACRL, Clinton Kelly may have said that no one respects you for looking comfortable, but I know firsthand that walking around a conference all day in three-inch heels will make you hate yourself! Also, bring snacks and a water bottle to get you through those long days. Check out the exhibition hall for free snacks and drinks, as well.
  • Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with strangers. Librarians are generally very friendly people.

Much thanks to my group for a lively discussion. Can’t wait until New Orleans!

Posted by: Cynthia Mari Orozco | April 10, 2011

Journalists and Librarians Collaborate at “Beyond Books”

I recently received IMLS funding to attend “Beyond Books: News, Literacy, Democracy and America’s Libraries,” a two-day Journalism That Matters symposium this past week in Cambridge, Massachusetts at MIT. When I applied to attend the conference, I was intrigued at the idea of librarians and journalists collaborating with one another towards shared goals; however, I honestly did not know what to expect and in what specific ways we could forge such alliances.

I met up with some of participants who arrived early for a tour of the MIT campus. It was a tour geared towards prospective students, but I still enjoyed seeing the campus and learning a little about the history of MIT.

We officially began the program with a viewing of “Information Stories,” a series of short digital narratives around the idea of the issues that arise when information does not serve the members of a community well. Some notable topics addressed include:

  • Lack of information threatens democracy
  • Unheard voices, community issues aren’t being addressed
  • “Community listening sessions” where citizens can voice their concerns
  • Online civic engagement
  • Sharing individual experiences, challenging stereotypes
  • Change through conversation
  • Collective consciousness
  • Challenge oppressive communities
  • Empowering community through the use of media tools
  • Communities teaching one another
  • Not only lack of information but need for correct information
  • Equal representation
  • Identify problems, find solutions, keep those in power accountable

We then heard about some awesome local projects that dealt with these issues:

  • Spare Change News – Empowers the homeless and economically disadvantages to share their experience through their own news.
  • Lost in Boston: REALTIME – Real-time transit signs in local businesses and non-profits. Rather than wait on the city to provide the necessary information, cut out the city bureaucracy and work with local businesses to provide the most up-to-date signage for its citizens.
  • Crónicas de Héroes – A campaign of positive thinking. Citizens report various positive acts they have witnessed.

These projects are a joint process for journalists and librarians and the communities they work with. To carry out such projects, we must find an audience for each story, determine what communities want through active conversation, and make sure these people find this information.

The format for most of the session was an unconference. The participants determined what topics were to be discussed and each conversation was surprisingly different than the next. The main idea was to have an open mind and meet new people and share ideas. Some participants wrote down topics they wanted to discuss, and the rest of the participants

It is absolutely amazing how fast these 2.5 days went! The most empowering aspect of this program is that even as a current library school student, I was able to voice my opinions and provide my perspectives with just as much authority as anyone else in the room. Participants ranged from journalists, librarians, archivists, authors, lawyers, professors, and MLIS students, all with so much to share and contribute. This experience really illustrated how these informal conversations can inspire new ideas, programs, and collaboration. While this was only a 2.5-day event, we were reminded to not let the conversation stop at MIT. I had the pleasure of meeting some truly exceptional individuals at this event, and I look forward to continuing this conversation in the months to come.

Posted by: Cynthia Mari Orozco | April 3, 2011

ACRL 2011

ACRL 2011—Pennsylvania Convention Center

This past week, I went to my first ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) conference in Philadelphia. For the past couple of months, I had heard from many librarians that this was THE conference to attend. Since ACRL only happens every two years, I decided not to wait for Indianapolis in 2013 and take the plunge! As a library school student on a budget, I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it to travel across the country for this conference. It turns out, it was!

I only started attending library conferences this past November, and I’ve found these experiences to be invaluable. I’ve met incredible people, attended and participated in some great sessions, and had a lot of fun! Free books and library swag are also an added bonus.

What I took away from ACRL in a nutshell:

  • Next-gen librarians are flexible, creative, courageous, service-oriented, among many other important characteristics.
  • Poll Everywhere, a text message voting app, enables you to get instance feedback from your audience.
  • Latinos are game changers in higher education. One in four people under the age of 18 is Latino. (We’re everywhere!) So how can we help these students succeed? You can read more about this session here.
  • Determining fair use: if the social benefits of the unauthorized use of copyrighted materials outweigh the private costs to the copyright holder, you’re probably okay. Ask yourself if you transformed the copyrighted work or simply copied it. Also, I really must read more online fan fiction.
  • You can never have too many electric outlets.
  • Last but not least, one of the biggest networking tips I learned at ACRL was to rock the seatbelt bag. It sounds silly, but I was seriously approached by at least six librarians during the three days I was at the conference.

This is just a glimpse of what I experienced at ACRL; these are just some of the highlights of my time in Philadelphia. It was also great to meet San Jose State faculty, staff, and students at the Saturday night reception at The Pyramid Club (I’m really looking forward to our reception at ALA!). If you are interested in academic librarianship, I would highly recommend attending ACRL in Indianapolis in 2013!



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