Pang Yang | Movers & Shakers 2020–Community Builders

When Pang Yang realized there were not enough children’s books written in Karen in the Saint Paul Public Library (SPPL), she partnered with community members to publish two bilingual picture books for the city’s growing Burmese refugee community. More than 5,000 copies were distributed throughout the city and to some schools.

Sidsel Bech-Petersen

CURRENT POSITION

Library Manager, Arlington Hills Community Center, Saint Paul Public Library, MN

DEGREE

MLIS, Clarion University, 2019

AWARDS

ALA Spectrum Scholar

COAUTHOR

“Evolution of Community Services in Saint Paul,” Tech for All: Moving Beyond the Digital Divide, LITA Guides, ed. by Lauren Comito (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019)

FOLLOW

 mylibrarycard (Instagram); sppl.org/childrens-books-in-karen-amharic-and-oromo

Photo courtesy of Pang Yang

 

Owning Their Stories

When Pang Yang realized there were not enough children’s books written in Karen in the Saint Paul Public Library (SPPL), she partnered with community members to publish two bilingual picture books for the city’s growing Burmese refugee community. More than 5,000 copies were distributed throughout the city and to some schools.

"I was passionate about [the project]," Yang says, "about the process, about what the books meant, and about how [they] connect people." She also coordinated translating another picture book into Oromo and Amharic to serve immigrants who speak Ethiopia’s major languages. The daughter of Hmong refugees from Laos, Yang understands growing up in a country where her history and traditional stories weren’t taught in school. "When I began my professional work at the Saint Paul Public Library, I knew that with this power, [I could] reverse that for future kids [who] walk into the library," Yang says.

The bilingual books were part of Yang’s work as SPPL community services coordinator, where she also coordinated non-English computer classes and storytimes.

In a recent project, Wash & Learn, Yang partnered with Giant Wash Coin Laundry, Minnesota State Library Services, and nonprofit Libraries Without Borders to offer storytimes, Wi-Fi, laptops, and books at laundromats. "Our mission was to understand obstacles for specific communities and remove them," Yang says. 

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