Monnee Tong | Movers & Shakers 2024—Advocates

Monnee Tong’s career has been shaped by her passion for social justice, which carries through to her work as supervising librarian at San Diego Public Library.


Supervising Librarian, San Diego Public Library


MLIS, University of Washington, 2012


Tong loves cats and was thrilled when Central Library staff created a San Diego Public Library Cat Calendar, featuring library staff’s cats photoshopped on San Diego libraries.


Photo by Tangerine Tree Photography 





Righting Wrongs

Monnee Tong’s career has been shaped by her passion for social justice, which carries through to her work as supervising librarian at San Diego Public Library (SDPL). Previously an American Library Association Emerging Leader, Tong continues to defend civil liberties through professional advocacy and has created an ongoing paid internship program at the library for San Diego State University social work students. In 2019, she oversaw the university’s research into how libraries can address homelessness and combat the growing opioid epidemic through services to the community.

Recently, the California Senate Committee on Rules appointed her to the Advisory Committee for the California Civil Liberties Program, which funds educational projects about the Japanese American experience under the California State Library, based on her leadership of the groundbreaking program series “The Rebellious Miss Breed: San Diego Public Library and the Japanese American Incarceration.” The project focuses on former SDPL Director Breed’s efforts to battle systemic discrimination against Japanese Americans during World War II. Breed became distressed when San Diego Japanese American families were taken to internment camps, and she kept in contact with young library patrons who had been relocated, sending them reading materials and visiting them numerous times. Breed also published articles and wrote letters to Congress protesting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s internment policy.

Tong secured $20,000 to create a program series honoring Breed’s efforts and initiated the annual Clara Breed Civil Liberties Program, which has featured Oscar Award–nominated independent filmmaker and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) professor Renee Tajima-Peña; award-winning journalist and UC Berkeley professor Shereen Marisol Meraji; and Kumeyaay Community College president Dr. Stan Rodriguez. In the course of her research, Tong discovered that the San Diego City Council 1942 internment resolution had never been repealed; with her leadership, the library collaborated with city council to repeal the old resolution and pass a new one in solidarity, including an official apology to those affected for the city’s failure to support them at the time. The council further made a formal apology to the Japanese American community as a whole, acknowledging the library’s key advocacy.

Tong believes that “the untold stories and histories of our community deserve a platform and a place at the library so we can learn about others and learn about ourselves. Making space for more voices in library programming and collections is a top priority in my work.”

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing