Island life experiences inspire MLIS student

By Shanzay Shabi Thursday, February 9, 2023

Growing up in Guam, Katrina Lujan found sanctuary in a small, underfunded library. Her life-long love for books led her to pursue an education and career in librarianship. 

Lujan, a first-year Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) online student based in Portland, was recently awarded a scholarship from the Information School Scholarship Fund, supported by alumni and donors. Alongside her studies, Lujan is also a library coordinator in a women-only state prison. 

Her passion for librarianship and working for and within historically underrepresented communities stems from her experiences growing up in the Pacific islands. Lujan, of the Chamorro Indigenous people of Guam, recalls growing up in a rough neighborhood and turning to her local library as her personal safe haven. 

“The village I grew up in was really one of the rare villages that had a library, which was really just a small building with books and one staff person,” Lujan said. “But that small library alone held such significance for me because growing up I did not have a lot of safe places where I could spend time after school.”

After experiencing firsthand the impact libraries can have on traditionally underserved communities, Lujan decided to pursue a degree that would enable her to serve communities like hers. It was this desire and set of values that drew Lujan to the MLIS program at the iSchool. 

For Lujan, the University of Washington seemed ideal and the iSchool’s MLIS program was one of the few that offered classes helping support the leadership within libraries that she was looking for. 

“UW was my dream school. I looked at it and I was like, that’s it, that’s where I want to go,” Lujan said. “And when I saw the iSchool was actively working within and supporting Indigenous knowledge, it really spoke to my heart as a minority person and being from the Pacific islands.” 

Greg Williams, Lujan’s former director at her public library position and UW alum, admires Lujan’s drive and dedication. 

“During the time I was fortunate enough to work with Katrina, I developed a tremendous amount of appreciation and respect for not only her skills, her ingenuity, and her problem-solving abilities, but also for her commitment to the principles and aspirations of our profession, her compassion, and her passionate belief in the power of libraries to help people and communities become the best versions of themselves,” said Williams. 

Despite this being Lujan’s first year, she has already been able to apply her coursework toward her goal of assisting in building infrastructure for communities that don’t get a lot of support. In her LIS 570 class, for example, Lujan and her research group pursued the question of what opportunities there are for librarians in prison institutions. 

“We found a lot of gaps in the quality and quantity of training resources available to prison library staff,” Lujan said. “This has helped me identify areas within prison libraries that need more support and allowed me to share this knowledge with my manager to coordinate ways we can improve the opportunities and resources we’re giving to incarcerated individuals.” 

Lujan is eager to continue the rest of her MLIS journey and hopes to continue to serve systematically oppressed communities through her career in librarianship. 

Her advice to other prospective MLIS students is to “take the jump. … Believe in yourself, be honest, and be true to who you are.”