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Jennifer Nguyen Bernal Recognized with Student Honors by ALA and ARL

First-year MLIS student receives ALA’s David H. Clift Scholarship and is selected to the 2022-2024 ARL Kaleidoscope Program.

Jennifer Nguyen Bernal has been honored by the American Library Association (ALA) with the David H. Clift Scholarship. The $3,000 scholarship is awarded to a person pursuing a master's degree in library and information studies.

Bernal, a first-year MLIS student in the UCLA Department of Information Studies, looks forward to a career that will provide communities with information sources to understand issues such as race, class, and identity as they relate to marginalized voices. Her current research interests connect her undergraduate work in ethnic studies with a focus on open access to information sources for all communities. 

Bernal was also selected as a member of the 2022-2024 Kaleidoscope cohort by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). The Kaleidoscope program strives to diversify the profession by providing generous funding for MLIS education and a suite of related benefits, including mentoring, leadership and professional development, and career placement assistance.

Bernal, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Asian American Studies, and  Chicanx Studies at UC Davis, has been a longtime intern at the university’s Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, and as such, recently co-curated the exhibit, “California is in the Heart,” now at the California Museum in Sacramento. The exhibit, which runs until April 9, 2023, was created in partnership with the Bulosan Center, with support from the Filipino American National Historical Society Museum, the California Nurses Union, the UC Davis Library, and the Filipino American Educators Association of California. The exhibit highlights Filipinos’ influence in California, from their first landing at Morro Bay in 1587, through the labor and civil rights movements of the 1960s, to present-day roles in local and statewide office.  

Working with the local community, Bernal and her co-curators worked to gain access and to share community artifacts such as family photos and materials related to the work of Filipino nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and women’s role in the Filipino American community.

A native of Stockton, California, Bernal first became involved with the Bulosan Center while attending San Joaquin Delta College. She says that there is a rich history in Stockton connected to the Southeast Asian, and Filipino community and that she was inspired to major pursue her bachelor’s degree in Ethnic studies while an intern for the city’s chapter of the Filipino American National History Society (FANHS). That experience compelled her to help marginalized communities with an exploration of their histories and to share them with others. 

Bernal was attracted to the UCLA MLIS program because of the variety of libraries at the University and their connections to ethnic studies across campus. 

“I wanted to be able to connect with students doing research within ethnic studies, and to be able to contribute and update sources within that field,” she says. “Working with FANHS, I saw how community members were able to come together and collect information sources within their own community, when established institutions are not really helping them. I want to engage with community members and show that [their] history is … really important, that [with] this knowledge, they will be able to have this historical context of their history to help their community to the best of their ability.”

By sharing one such history through “California is in the Heart,” Bernal hopes that viewers of the exhibit will be compelled to learn more about Filipino American communities in the state and about the myriad contributions of these communities to California’s economy, wellbeing, and culture. 

“I wanted the communities themselves to see their history within these exhibits, [which] institutions have never shown before, and see how they are part of California history,” says Bernal. “They will be able to share their voices, see themselves within California history and continue to reflect that there is so much they will be able to contribute in the future. 

“While learning the history of the Filipinx community, I mainly saw them in agriculture and health care work, but as you can see, they’re coming out of those fields,” notes Bernal. “They're able to follow their passions that they want to follow and contribute to their community that way. Being in academia myself, I see a slow increase of Filipinx archivists, librarians and professors. There are so many potential fields out there, and I feel like they're able to now enter those fields, though it would be challenging.”

Bernal says that being an ARL Kaleidoscope Scholar is a great advantage to help students meet the challenges of previously unexplored fields, with practical advice and support from mentors who are not unlike themselves. 

“The Kaleidoscope cohort is a fellowship, and it helps people from marginalized backgrounds to enter the library and archive field,” says Bernal, whose Kaleidoscope mentor is Xaviera Flores, a librarian and archivist at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. “I can meet archivists and librarians of color throughout the United States, and we can talk about what struggles and obstacles we're facing within our program, and opportunities to find jobs or join conferences.

“To be able to have a community with the Kaleidoscope cohort was really helpful too, because we’re sharing the ways we are struggling financially and struggling to navigate this field. Even though we have experience, we don’t have the terminology or the knowledge of other students who are in their second year. So, we are sharing advice back and forth and ways to uplift ourselves.”

Bernal thanks her UCLA IS mentor Kim Nguyen (’22, MLIS), a recent graduate of the MLIS program who is now  a public librarian in Los Angeles County. Bernal also credits the UC Davis Asian American Studies department and Roberto Carlos Degadillo, a student services librarian at UC Davis, who has served as another mentor. In addition, she thanks her colleagues at the Bulosan Center, including Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, UC Davis professor of Asian American studies and the center’s director; Stacey Salinas, senior historian;  and Jason Sarmiento, director of archives and public history.

Bernal says that her initial interest in libraries was sparked by her aunt, who worked as a librarian. 

“I view the library as a form of economic support and community engagement,” she says. “Many marginalized communities can depend on libraries and archives for resources and program development that you really don't find anywhere else.”